The Fruit Bats' Eric Johnson was definitely born in the '70s. His band's third album, Spelled in Bones, stirs up images of Astroturf, bell-bottoms, and all things avocado green. Like a pared-down, folksier Beach Boys or Polyphonic Spree, the Bats' songs rely strongly on earthy melody, syrupy-sweet harmonies, and nature-obsessed lyrics.
The opener, "Lives of Crime," sounds quite organic in spite of its throbbing synth undercurrent, and while the subtle electronic washes of Mouthfuls, the band's last album, are less prevalent this time around, the Bats continue to mix acoustic instruments and modern gizmos with success. Arguably the best vocalist of the current crop of American folk-pop bands, Johnson's sweet tenor sells every song on the album, and the falsetto he sets free on "The Wind That Blew My Heart Away" could make a Bee Gee blush. Like their labelmates the Shins, the Bats make music so classic, you'll swear you've heard it before; but in the end, they sound like no one before them or since.