When: Thu., Sept. 8, 9 p.m. 2011
Eric Johnson and fellow members of the decade-old Fruit Bats spent a week recording the new Tripper (Sub Pop)—and then Johnson spent a month holed up with producer Tom Monahan adding keyboards, electronic effects, and other overdubs. This extra studio business—influenced by Johnson's recent work outside the band—changed the complexion of the songs. For the past couple of years he's kept busy writing soundtrack music (including for the 2010 romantic comedy Ceremony and the recent Our Idiot Brother), and the experience has pushed him away from his old folk-pop models. On Tripper he kind of splits the difference: his tunes spill over with typically sunny melodies, sung in his sweet, high-pitched cry, but by fussing around after the band finishes, he tends to sacrifice its sturdy attack for a kaleidoscope of bright keyboard colors. Many of the new songs are about people leaving home for the unknown, but Johnson himself doesn't seem ready for a one-way ticket.
According to Sub Pop's publicity, Vetiver's fourth album, The Errant Charm, "was made for walking," but I can only imagine using it as a soundtrack if I had nowhere in particular to be any time soon. The songs, written and sung by Andy Cabic, are melodically airy—a kind of mentholated soft rock—until the second half of the album, when the music seems to stir itself awake. At that point Vetiver starts moving with a sense of purpose—the strumming lilt of "Right Away," the pure Velvets chug of "Ride Ride Ride"—but the warm-up period is awfully long. —Peter Margasak The Fruit Bats headline; Vetiver and Breathe Owl Breathe open.