Fruit Bats – Tripper

Rating: ★★★★☆

You may or may not know this, but The Fruit Bats have been around for a pretty long time. I say you may not know them not to affront your breadth of knowledge of the musical scope, but to forgive the fact that they are one of those groups on the Sub Pop label that haven’t quite attained the popularity of bands like, dare I say, Fleet Foxes, or The Shins. However, popular doesn’t always mean that one band makes better music than the other; as “indie” music fans should know. Regardless, if you haven’t already hopped on the Fruit Bats express, now is as good of a time as any with their folksy yet pop filled fifth studio release.

Tripper begins with an introductory number that gives listeners a taste of the narrative style embedded inside all great Fruit Bats songs. “Tony the Tripper,” starts with delicate guitar strumming and the lead vocals of Eric Johnson, as you are gracefully eased into the storytelling about the title character. As piano parts trickle in above the bass-line during the chorus, you get the idea that Mr. Tony is a facet of Johnson’s personality; the wandering part of him coming out. It’s a quaint opening number, with the oh-so-pleasant-folksy attributes in full swing, that continues throughout the

On the third track, “Tangie and Ray,” there is a small shift to more a bluesy rock feel, and Fruit Bats show their multidimensional efforts that will make the transition from interesting to excellent on this album. At 3:13 long, it turns into a bit more a stomper than you’d expect from this band up to this point. With a kicked up drum beat and more prevalent piano, it’s a hearty break from the folk. However, you get right back to the folk on the next song, but this is not a bad thing in any way.

For me, the folksier songs are the better on Tripper. For instance, just when you think you’ve reached the end of the goodness, this band throws a beauty like “Wild Honey” your way, and it’s just astoundingly simple and elegant. It feels like a glorified Tallest Man on Earth track, with emotion packed vocals and all, ready for you to get lost inside its sound. If it doesn’t take your breath the first listen, have another, and let it sink in; the same can be said for any song on this album

It may easy these days to have access to a great deal of music, and it may be easy to pass over bands like Fruit Bats, but it is hard to find a grouping of tracks that have the power to both tell a story, and also move you sonically. So give Tripper a try; you’ll be missing out if you don’t.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/9788.mp3]

Download: Fruit Bats – Tangie and Ray [MP3]

More New Music From Fruit Bats

A couple months ago, we alerted you to a new single called “WACS” from purveyors of cool Fruit Bats.  Well now the group is offering up the this new song “Tangie and Ray” from their soon to be released album Tripper out August 2nd on Sub Pop Records.  Having already received the new record and given it some spins, I highly recommend you pick it up in a few weeks when it hits stores.  Their progressive take on pop infused folk music is easily accesible to most anyone with an ear for the finer things in life.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/9788.mp3]

Download: Fruit Bats – Tangie and Ray [MP3]

New Music From The Fruit Bats

Incredible indie songwriter Eric D. Johnson and his project known as Fruit Bats just announced plans for a new album entitled Tripper to be released on August 2nd via Sub Pop Records.  Now this new song “WACS” won’t be appearing on the upcoming LP, but we just had to share the tasty new number with you guys.  It’s a nice little jangly number with sweet reverb oohs and ahs in the background.  The track also features a guest appearance by the legeneder J. Mascis.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Fruit-Bats-WACS.mp3]

Download: Fruit Bats – WACS [MP3]

Efterklang – Magic Chairs

Efterklang_Magic_Chairs_emailRating: ★★★★½

Following on the recognition in part to a dedicated fan base, a live repertoire rapidly becoming known as one of the best acts to catch in the world, and a newly inked contract with 4AD, the Copenhagen-based quartet Efterklang are set to release their 3rd studio album, Magic Chairs. Trying to improve on Parades, one of the best albums of 2007 and last year’s vastly underrated live recording, Performing Parades is a difficult feat. Luckily for the listener, Efterklang are fully committed to the challenge.

In comparison, this release is by far their most extroverted album and with their imminent reprise at SXSW 2010, after a US tour with locals Balmorhea, these indomitable souls are positioned to make big waves. On this release, they adopted a unique approach to recording, displaying their acumen for performing. Ask anyone who has seen their show and they will tell you that their skill flourishes with their unrivaled live presence. These songs were born in a live venue and after the blemishes were removed and the arrangements completed, the setting was reproduced in the studio with the help of their touring members including siblings Peter and Heather Broderick. The tracks were then mastered with the help of famed British producer Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Interpol, and Grizzly Bear). The overall aesthetic is obviously something taken very seriously as Efterklang has enlisted Hvass & Hannibal to once again produce beautiful and provocative album artwork.  

With Magic Chairs, Efterklang has bridged the gap into a more accessible realm of pop music. The first single is the relentlessly catchy “Modern Drift” which opens with a simple piano pattern soon paired by Casper Clausen’s deep and vibrating vocals before building into a sound of trademark Efterklang as we know them.  This back to basics style is quite a leap from earlier releases, especially their 2004 debut Tripper. In doing so, they may have abandoned a few fans who have grown used to the more prominent electronic influences from Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen’s soaring (though unrecognizable) lyrics and Peter Broderick’s vast string arrangements.

Efterklang seek perhaps a more profitable labor and have mostly abandoned their immense, cinematic presence and incomprehensible lyrics for a more understandable, logical approach. Songs titles “Harmonics” and “Natural Tune” are obvious indications of this endeavor. However, what they have left behind has not completely vanished and with repeated listens, the layers remain; though more subtle and carefully placed. This attention to detail is most impressively heard in the one-two punch of “Raincoats” and “Harmonics”, which is by far one of the strongest moments on the album. Here they draw obvious influences from the Dirty Projectors by means of majestic harmonization, utilizing heavy percussive elements, and the addition of subtle Radiohead-esque arrangements.

The one weak moment in the album for me is the bubbly “Scandinavian Love”, which is undeniably the most poppy track on the album and although the rifts ate catchy, it feels like a rushed product. I will withhold-complete judgment until I hear it performed live.

Other highlights include “The Soft Beating” with soaring vocals and subtle electronic influences which calmly and delicately build into a strong finish where “it all comes down” and the dreamy, thought provoking “Mirror Mirror” which seems to feed my imagination seems like the only obvious bridge between their last release, Parades. The last track on the album, “Natural Tune” contains a beautiful and supple duet with simple piano and guitar interplayed. It’s a stunning finish to one of the best albums of the year thus far and I fully expect to find it on many best of lists.

After multiple listens it’s truly a difficult process to find fault besides those mentioned above. That says much about Efterklang’s work ethic and their endless steps towards pop perfection. I reserve a half star due to the fact that these songs were instinctive live songs and fittingly their place is in a live setting.  Luckily for them, I’ll be at SXSW seeking them out with my gold half-star in hand. 

Also the whole album is streaming right now over on Sound Venue.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/01-Modern-Drift.mp3]

Download: Efterklang – Modern Drift [MP3]