After Eric D. Johnson, founder and only constant member of Fruit Bats, announced an indefinite end to the group in 2013 it seemed that 2011’s Tripper would be the last of the Fruit Bats that fans would get to experience on Stereo Sound. In February of this year the unexpected return was announced, as well as Absolute Loser’s May 13 release date. After so many years releasing on a prominent independent label like Sub Pop, Johnson has released this album on Easy Sound alongside wonderful artists such as Vetiver, Sam Cohen, and Rogue Wave. A small tour through the northern US and the west coast will support the release, and those dates will undoubtedly be special, for the 20 years that Johnson has molded and explored the Fruit Bats are coming together in a cumulative sunny country rock record with waves of soul, grace, and an open-hearted nature.
Johnson employs this history of Fruit Bats to form a sound for Absolute Loser. The brassy acoustic folk of Echolocation morphs into smooth blues licks on “None Of Us,” just as the experimentation of 2009’s The Ruminant Band is born again in harmonies and especially the lush introduction of electric guitar on the same track. “None Of Us” is such a standout on the new release; Johnson sings, almost croons, with breezy love in his voice and constant reminders to be humble, that “None of us have seen it all.” This line exposes the humble way about Johnson and the gorgeous simplicity of his lyrics on Absolute Loser. The slow and heavy acoustic on “Baby Bluebird” hits deep when combined with Johnson singing “But if you’d given me most of you, I would’ve handed over all of me / But it’s in the rearview, my baby, baby bluebird.”
While the album largely plays on the folk-rock and country sounds of Fruit Bats past, there is a certain soulful swing throughout Absolute Loser that gives it a sound and feeling cohesive on its own but logical as an addition to the Fruit Bats discography. This easy moving feeling, one that forces the head to sway in the gentlest way, is paired on”It Must Be Easy” with prodding inquiry about the way that prominence as a singer can detach you from true and deep connection with the world around you or with what you’re creating. Crafting this album alone, Johnson has turned inward to rebirth Fruit Bats.
Recommended If You Like: Wilco, Blitzen Trapper, M. Ward, Sam Cohen, Fleetwood Mac
Recommended Tracks: 5 (Baby Bluebird), 1 (From A Soon-To-Be Ghost Town), 2 (Humbug Mountain Song), 3 (None of Us)