Album: Fruit Bats – A River Running to Your Heart review

by Craig Howieson

Eric D. Johnson scours the rust from his memories to present a glittering set of songs

Most of us would find it hard to write our own origins story without it being full of inaccuracies, clouded by half memories, and distorted by collective recollections. Even if we could, how much benefit would we gain from discovering how we got here, when here is merely another fleeting moment soon to be confined to recent history?

On his latest album, A River Running to Your Heart, Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson joins the dots of a twenty plus career. But instead of attempting to provide a potted history, he allows for hazy half-thoughts and hair-brained detours, as he traverses the sounds and themes that have made him one of the ‘aughts most engaging artists. The record as a whole feels like a culmination of all that has come before, while shining a torch into the darkness of what is still to come. There are traces of both the alt-folk of his early career output on Sub Pop, as well as the luscious disco infused production of his most recent work on display, as he scours the rust from his memories to present a glittering set of songs. 

Perhaps self-producing for the first time has allowed Johnson to assume a new level of control where nothing is off limits. Certainly, the electro pop throb of See the World By Night, and slow jazz styling of Meridian, are as far from the beaten path he has ever strayed, but both provide a refreshing insight into the mesmerising nature of his influences. 

A life on the road has left Johnson with a conflicted notion of home – compounding the difficulty of his task of surmising where he’s come from and where he’s going. ‘We all want a home—metaphorical or real,‘ he sings on Waking Up In Los Angeles. On his non linear voyage through his past, he also touches on simpler and happier times. We Used To Live Here is quite possibly the most beautiful song he has written, nodding to his recent work with Bonny Light Horseman. A simple song consisting solely of an acoustic guitar and Johnson’s voice, he reminisces on how ‘We used to call this our home / We were the perfect age / And the rent was so low’ in an undeniable yearn for stability.

On A River Running to Your Heart, Johnson welcomes all parts of his history, fictitious and real, without getting too bogged down in the here and now. It can be hard to find steady ground when you are constantly moving, but, for Johnson, home seems to be where those he chooses to surround himself with are. And as he sings on closer Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, it ‘feels good to be home.’

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