Fruit Bats – The Pet Parade (2021) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Fruit Bats – The Pet Parade (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 44:16 minutes | 477 MB | Genre: Indie Rock, Indie Folk
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Merge Records

The Pet Parade marks a milestone for Johnson, who celebrates 20 years of Fruit Bats in 2021. In some ways still a cult band, in other ways a time-tested act, Fruit Bats has consistently earned enough small victories to carve out a career in a notoriously fickle scene.

While many of the songs on The Pet Parade were actually written before the pandemic, it’s impossible to disassociate the record from the times. As an example, producer Josh Kaufman (The Hold Steady, Bob Weir, The National, and Bonny Light Horseman, in which he plays with Johnson and Anaïs Mitchell) was brought in for his deep emotional touch and bandleading abilities. However, Johnson, Kaufman, and the other musicians on The Pet Parade—drummers Joe Russo and Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes, Muzz), singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels, pianist Thomas Bartlett (Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens), and fiddler Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine)—were forced to self-record their parts in bedrooms and home studios across America.

Arriving 20 years after Fruit Bats’ debut album, The Pet Parade finds project leader Eric D. Johnson collaborating with producer and Bonny Light Horseman colleague Josh Kaufman and instrumentalists including keyboardist Thomas Bartlett, Iron & Wine violinist Jim Becker, and drummers Joe Russo (Kevin Morby, Cass McCombs) and Matt Barrick (Fleet Foxes, the Walkmen). A typically affable and bittersweet outing for Johnson, it was written before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the musicians to record it primarily remotely in various home studios. Despite that detail, the album carries a reliably loose, breezy demeanor within full-band arrangements, including on opening track “The Pet Parade.” Inspired by the memory of actual pet parades held in his grandmother’s hometown, it explores themes of the passage of time and life with minimal chord movement and repeated lyrics like “Here we are, once again here” and “It feels like it’s been years.” Meanwhile, it sets a sonic template with warm acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and a sauntering rhythm section, eventually adding touches of fiddle, vintage keys, and vocal harmonies. Though much of the album follows that song’s gait, Johnson picks up the tempo on the more urgent, still wistful “The Balcony.” It again addresses time and transitions while homing in on isolation (“Now alone again as usual/Out on the balcony”). Elsewhere, “Holy Rose” takes on a bluesier hue, and “Complete” closes the set on a stripped-down, consoling acoustic guitar ballad that insists, “But you shall be complete/I decree it so.” If The Pet Parade doesn’t break new ground, it does offer comfort and compassion wrapped in a honeyed, effortless indie folk that honors the project’s now-long tenure. – Marcy Donelson

1. The Pet Parade (06:42)
2. Cub Pilot (03:32)
3. Discovering (04:35)
4. The Balcony (04:09)
5. Here For Now, For You (02:52)
6. On the Avalon Stairs (03:11)
7. Eagles Below Us (03:37)
8. Holy Rose (04:52)
9. All in One Go (03:13)
10. Gullwing Doors (04:35)
11. Complete (03:01)