Spelled In Bones
Label: Sub Pop
Catalog #: 70654
Eric Johnson has been making experimental and pop-inflected folk-rock with increasing compositional and thematic complexity since Califone/Perishable Records founders Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella prompted him to explore his craft in the mid-‘90s. Johnson’s recordings, enriched by contributions from an ever-revolving cast of Chicagoan characters (the current lineup includes I Rowboat’s Dan Strack and percussionist John Byce) used a melancholy hand to touch on love and the human experience on 2001’s Perishable debut, Echolocation, and 2003’s Sub Pop-released Mouthfuls. Around the release of Mouthfuls, Harp magazine described the Fruit Bats as residing somewhere on a continuum between Califone and The Shins, combining, “…the latter’s widescreen vision with the former’s melodic knack to create something at once familiar and new.”
After the years of extensive touring that followed, including stints with Modest Mouse, The Shins and Iron & Wine, as well as a handful of Wilco opening slots, Johnson returned to the drawing board with distinctly darker intent. “I was going to write this dark bummer record with shades of optimism, but my life started getting better,” he explains. The result of much soul-searching, Spelled in Bones is truly Johnson’s enlightened Romantic opus — in the 18th century English literary sense of the term. With an emphasis on the “bigger picture” of life as it relates to nature’s organic relationship to man (“Legs of Bees,” “Spelled in Bones”), and irrational, spontaneous moments of beauty and rebirth (“Every Day That We Wake Up It’s a Beautiful Day”), Spelled in Bones proffers warm, thoughtful, bittersweet pop that’s as hopeful as it is curious.