In Rotation: Fruit Bats’ ‘Tripper’

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Rare is the collection of orchestral pop as rich as the Fruit Bats’ “Tripper.” Yet as Eric D. Johnson’s band turns 10, acts the Chicago artist has worked with continue to overshadow his own project, be it the equally exquisite Shins or bluesy rock experimentalists Califone. “They say that you’re too weird for me,” Johnson sweetly sings in the middle of the album, as if he himself seems aware that the charming and lovely have a tendency to get overlooked.

There can be plenty of nuance, however, in the sound of innocence, as evidenced by the 11 tracks here, which are dreamy but not so featherweight as to be floating away. “So Long” is an enchanting mix of harpsichord-like sounds and harmonic atmospheres, while “Tangie and Ray” marries a soulful, ’70s bent with an old-timey, ’50s rock kick. Johnson’s voice is an instrument unto itself, a warm, yet nasally, versatile device. The upper-register softness can get lost in the chamber pop swirl of “Shivering Fawn,” or flitter over the stand-up bass strut of “Dolly” as if it’s a human trumpet. If only all pop delicacies were this adventurous.

Fruit Bats
(Sub Pop)



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-- Todd Martens