Music News

Fruit Bats

Suites: those ornate, flowery compositions that bluebloods in powdered wigs used to listen to between bouts of beheading peasants. Sweets: the sucrose-saturated foodstuffs that make your tooth enamel turn to crud. The two homophones neatly bracket Spelled in Bones, the third full-length by Chicago's Fruit Bats. Mainly the brainchild of songwriter Eric Johnson, the group has gradually refined its folk-laced pop from a coarser, darker sound to a pristine and sparkling brilliance. And it's lost a lot in the process: The fey, overwrought arrangements tiptoe the line between precious and pretentious, while tracks like "Silent Life" are ostensible fits of soul-purging that feel more like exercises than exorcisms. Stuff just as wimpy as this (for instance, the work of the Bats' labelmate, the Shins) manages to be confident, intimate, dense and tender all at the same time. But Spelled in Bones' vulnerability is also its armor -- a flimsy, sugarcoated shield that's barely worth the effort of penetrating.
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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller