Set for release on the first day of summer, Gold Past Life – the new album from Fruit Bats and the first to be released by Merge – marks both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records Eric D. Johnson began with 2014’s “solo album” EDJ and hit an emotional peak with 2016’s Absolute Loser. They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been. The music, says Johnson, “was a soothing balm.” But the songs on Gold Past Life represent something new: the journeys that await after making it through troubled times.
The notion of moving on is exactly what Gold Past Life is all about. It’s about rejecting notions of idealized nostalgia (“Gold Past Life”) and the process of grounding oneself in the present, both geographically (“A Lingering Love,” “Ocean”) and spiritually (“Drawn Away”). That spiritual sense of place is particularly important to Johnson, who has always been fascinated by dreams and the subconscious stories they can tell. “Some of these songs are directed at specific people, some at amalgams of people, and lots at myself, or the subconscious version of myself— that version like how they say you’re every single character in your dreams,” he says. Even as he works through these journeys, Johnson’s falsetto shines atop the LP’s bopping folk-rock of Gold Past Life, which is produced by Thom Monahan (Neko Case, Peter Bjorn & John, Devendra Banhart) and features more keyboard influences along with a range of guests including Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore, Vampire Weekend), Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and more. It also sees his working relationship with producer and engineer hit its stride. According to Johnson, “Fruit Bats has been a cult band for a long time.” With Gold Past Life, he hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin’ on with a wider audience.
“The latest Fruit Bats’ song sees Johnson hit a peak of radiant retro poppiness. “Gold Past Life” brings to mind the Bee Gees and Seventies Paul McCartney, (especially the hippie-folk pastoralism of “Monkberry Moon Delight” and the soft-rock smoothness of “Bluebird”) with a little wide-lapel synth throb thrown in for good measure.” -Rolling Stone
“Retro-lined, existential folk-pop.” -The Line of Best Fit
RIYL: The Shins, Vetiver, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, Kevin Morby, Rogue Wave, Fleet Foxes, Cass McCombs
Recommended Tracks: Track 1, “The Bottom Of It,” Track 2, “Gold Past Life,” Track 4, “Cazadera”
Label: Merge Records