If Fruit Bats have slipped into the periphery of your consciousness in recent times, it's probably because fans of bona fide indiepop will have heard of main Bat Eric Johnson - particularly since the guitarist and songwriter became a fully-fledged member of his Sub Pop labelmates The Shins several years ago. Neverthless, Johnson continues to record with the band he formed in 1999, and 'The Ruminant Band' is the trio's fourth album.
It's easy to see how Johnson would slot into the ramshackle pop zone inhabited by James Mercer and co.; he's a writer of warm, hazy, easygoing tunes that conjure up images of rolling fields of hay in late summer. Much of 'The Ruminant Band' is filtered through an amber haze; the strummed acoustic guitar on 'Primitive Man' and 'Tegucigalpa' are particularly engaging, their weather-beaten, battered, yet warm refrains creating a cosy ambience.
It sounds like Johnson is a fan of Paul McCartney in places, too: 'My Unusual Friend' is particularly reminiscent of Wings, while the title track swings between Greenwich Village-style folk, Devendra Banhart and McCartney's solo material. The honky-tonk piano jolts on loose free-for-all 'The Hobo Girl', meanwhile, is distinctly Dylanesque, especially when coupled with Johnson's pinched nasal tones.
Johnson may display his influences a bit too audaciously to ever really make a classic album, but if he keeps making charming little summertime nuggets like this, no doubt Fruit Bats will continue to flourish.