Former frontman of the Fruit Bats, Eric D. Johnson's first stab at a solo album is equal parts engaging and frustrating.



Label: Easy Sound
US Release Date: 2014-08-05
UK Release Date: 2014-08-04

Last fall Eric D. Johnson announced the end of his indie folk band the Fruit Bats, who over the course of 13 years had released five studio albums. In a blog post featured on the band’s site Johnson cited no great reason for the disbandment. Perhaps he simply wished to ditch the moniker, which he admits, “has always ostensibly been a 'solo' project”.

For whatever reason the Fruit Bats are no longer, much to the chagrin of many fans. But just as he foretold in his letter, fans need not wait long for more music from Eric D. Johnson. This time his music is being released under the name EDJ and his brand new self-titled album strays little from the sound that Fruit Bats fans have come to know.

Although the final Fruit Bats album was release some three years ago, Johnson has been far from on any sort of hiatus. Since 2011’s Tripper he has been responsible for seven different film scores, including 2011’s Our Idiot Brother . He has also for year s been a part of the Shins, appearing on several tracks on 2012’s Port of Morrow .

With all these varied side projects it comes as no surprise to see some of these influences bleed through into what amounts to his first true solo album. Despite this EDJ’s first third is as much of a Fruit Bat’s album as any of the previous five in Johnson’s catalogue. The opening track, and perhaps the album’s best, “For the Boy Who Moved Away”, features a combination of Johnson’s easy-like-Sunday-morning vocals over repeated acoustic strumming, piano and a short repeated finger picking progression. The final minute displays a familiar sounding electric guitar solo, which floats over the still repeating theme established from the tracks opening moments.

Another first-half standout comes a little later with, “Minor Miracles”, a song in which EDJ decides to ditch the guitar for a simple piano, drum combination, along with some well placed hand claps. The chorus -- “Everyone you’ve ever seen is some mama’s baby / Some papa’s son” -- keeps with the hippie-tinged folk themes that have largely shaped Johnson’s career as a songwriter.

The middle of the album is where the change from Fruit Bats to EDJ is first made evident. EDJ is split down the middle by two wordless tracks, which seem to draw heavily from his recent experiences scoring films. It's as if these two, “The Magical Parking Lot” and “Salt Licorice”, were tracks that didn’t quite make whatever movie they were intended for but still deserved to be released. Unfortunately, they don’t quite work within the context of the rest of the album. Even more unfortunate is that the second half of the album never regains the momentum, which the first half gained so effortlessly.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.