Fruit Bats


By Adam Conner-Simons
Globe Correspondent / August 9, 2011

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Over eight years and four albums with Fruit Bats, Eric D. Johnson, the Shins sideman, showed a fondness for light-footed acoustic-pop delivered with only occasional bittersweet undertones. Since 2009’s “The Ruminant Band,’’ he has shifted to composing film scores, and this LP shows that his jaunty porch-side strums are not so brazenly breezy anymore. The subtly off-kilter pitter-patter beat of “The Banishment Song’’ pairs nicely with Johnson’s falsetto, which manages to simultaneously sound mournful yet giddy. (“You’re no longer welcome here,’’ he warns, before biting his tongue a line later: “I’m gonna roll with you.’’) The waltzy “Heart Like an Orange’’ bounces along with a Beatlesque melody that recalls “Norwegian Wood.’’ Mostly this parade of midtempo guitar-plus-keys tracks comes off as inert and paint-by-numbers. Johnson’s got charisma to spare: Who else could pen a love song that’s as oddly touching as “You’re Too Weird,’’ where the singer cheerily asks his object of affection, “Are you gonna run for the hills?’’ More tunes like that, he wouldn’t have to worry. (Out now)

ESSENTIAL “The Banishment Song’’

Fruit Bats perform with Vetiver at the Middle East Downstairs on Sept. 12.