This year marks twenty years for Fruit Bats being a band. Depending on what circles you travel in or how you gauge longevity in this current climate, that’s a big deal. Over those years the band has delivered some of the best harmony driven music going and their latest release The Pet Parade is no exception to that. Lushly arranged and full of life, the album signals the times we’re in with ease while still mowing you over with melodic based songwriting that’s gotten better with time. While Eric D. Johnson’s songwriting seems to only get better with age.
The album opener “The Pet Parade” signals the songwriting traits from the jump. The mix of the acoustic with the distanced vocals create a singer songwriter vibe that sticks in your head. The power of the way the song is orchestrated plays out like a miniature symphony. As if Johnson is reaching out to an isolated world, the song blossoms with a big sound that’s much like a finely crafted instrument. The album turns more towards a less grand tone on “Cub Pilot” where Johnson almost invokes a sound between Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. The sway of the sing song stride plays out perfectly with the vocals’ intimacy. On “The Balcony” Johnson adds a harmonic tone to an upbeat pacing, delivering the catchy without embodying pop in the process. The way the song hits like warm Summer air delivers the chorus in a way that’s celebratory rather than conventional.
But throughout this album, the harmonies against the songwriting are what make it sound out. In a way that feels like Johnson is at peace with where the project stands, the songs are rich in body and soul. There are moments where things feel organic while the accompaniment is rife with instrumentation. For “On The Avalon Stairs” the band pulls from their seventies a.m. radio sound while delving deep into that calming bliss they perfected years ago. It’s well arranged and better written where the sounds you hear fall like sprinkles of imagination. On “Holy Rose” the distanced way that the song rolls out pulls you closer in to experience what’s there. The drive between the harmony driven writing and the fuzz of the guitar create a tonal quality that you cannot deny.
But between the singer songwriter abilities and the well crafted and heavily instrumented songs lies little gems. A good example comes with “All in One Go.” The instruments play together like they were meant to fall in line between the falsetto vocals. There’s a quality here that’s between Bob Dylan and Neil Young to a degree, yet it never feels lifted. With “Complete” the album gets inwards and intimate. The acoustic opening with the vocals creates a simple sound that doesn’t deter from the inner feelings that the album brings forth. However while this song is well balanced, the favorite of the album comes on “Eagles Below Us.” The sparkling tones at the opening of the song meet Johnson’s syrupy vocals perfectly as they fall on your ears like a dream. The build here is emblazoned with a balanced harmony that you can’t shake. Swaying between the vocals and the built arrangements creates a space where things feel perfectly fine among the chaos of the unknown.
The album is available to purchase on varying formats directly from Merge Records. It can also be purchased through all digital outlets or it can be streamed on all streaming platforms.
Image Credits: Photo by Annie Beedy.