Today’s New Albums: Fruit Bats, Andrew Bird & Jimbo Mathus, Alex Bleeker & More
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Fruit Bats, Andrew Bird & Jimbo Mathus, Kings of Leon, Alex Bleeker, John Kimock and Shpongle. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Fruit Bats – The Pet Parade
The Scoop: Merge Records today issues The Pet Parade, a new album from Fruit Bats. The project’s mastermind, Eric D. Johnson wrote most of the material for the 11-track LP before the pandemic began, the songs hit upon topics that are particularly poignant during these crazy times. “The album is rooted in our very, very foggy present. It’s about connection in a time when connection is physically difficult and emotionally fraught,” explained Johnson. “The world is a ‘pet parade’ — which means it’s sort of beautiful but also ridiculous and comprises all kinds of creatures of different sizes and ideals, who are maybe enjoying themselves but also there against their will.”
The Pet Parade comes as Eric D. Johnson celebrates 20 years of Fruit Bats. Johnson tapped Josh Kaufman to produce The Pet Parade. Kaufman backs Eric on a record that also features contributions from singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels, fiddler Jim Becker, pianist Thomas Bartlett and drummers Joe Russo and Matt Barrick. The album was recorded remotely due to the pandemic with session musicians sending in their contributions from home studios. Eric and Josh laid down their parts at Kaufman’s Kingston, New York house and Johnson’s residence in Los Angeles.
Andrew Bird & Jimbo Mathus – These 13
The Scoop: Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus released their collaborative album, These 13, today via Thirty Tigers. The former Squirrel Nut Zippers bandmates teamed up once again after two decades which saw both musicians developing successful solo careers while remaining friends. But Mathus and Bird reconvened creatively in 2018, exchanging song fragments via voice memos which evolved into the 13-track album. The duo began recording in 2019 with producer Mike Viola at the helm, keeping things simple with just Bird’s fiddle, Mathus’ guitar and their voices, all captured live from opposite sides of a single RCA 44 microphone and recorded to analog tape.
Mathus and Bird also previewed the album with a series of performance videos for the title track, “Poor Lost Souls” and “Three White Horses & A Golden Chain” which, while filmed outdoors in the mountains outside Ojai, California, showcase Mathus and Bird’s method in the studio. Award-winning author Michael Farris Smith described the LP in a statement: “These 13 is a little bit folk, a little bit gospel, a little bit bluesy, a little bit Hank, a little bit hill country, but most emphatically, it is all heart.”
Kings Of Leon – When You See Yourself
The Scoop: When You See Yourself is the eighth studio album released by Kings Of Leon. Out today on RCA Records, the 11-track LP serves as the follow up to 2016’s WALLS. For the new release, guitarist/vocalist Caleb Followill, drummer Nathan Followill, bassist Jared Followill and guitarist Matthew Followill held recording sessions in Nashville at Blackbird Studios with producer Markus Dravs (who also produced WALLS). KOL is also releasing When You See Yourself as NFT Yourself, a collection of non-fungible tokens (NFT), marking the first major band to release an album in NFT form.
Alex Bleeker – Heaven On The Faultline
The Scoop: “The process for making this record was really fun and one I might repeat someday,” Alex Bleeker said on The JamBase Podcast. “This being a more solo record, recorded largely without a band, a lot of these recordings started as recordings made at home on my laptop by myself.” Bleeker, who plays bass in Real Estate, then teamed with co-producer Phil Hartunian at his Tropico Beauty recording space in Los Angeles to flesh out the demos and make what became Heaven On The Faultline.
Bleeker’s last solo album was 2016’s Country Agenda, which was credited to his Alex Bleeker & The Freaks project. As he indicated, the nine-track Heaven On The Faultline was a much more solo endeavor developed over several years and features Bleeker providing most of the instrumentation. A few other musicians were tapped to guest on the album, including Josh Da Costa of Confusing Mix of Nations, Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw, Tim Ramsey of Parting Lines and singer-songwriter Kacey Johansing. Heaven On The Faultline is out on Night Bloom Records, an independent label founded by friends Bleeker, Johansing and Jeff Manson.
John Kimock – Hikikomori
The Scoop: Musician/producer John Kimock’s new album was long in the making. Kimock began work on the 10-track Hikikomori five years ago and finally had a chance to finish recording and mixing the LP during the pandemic. John launched Astrology Days Records with Pappy Biondo of Cabinet in the early days of the pandeic and today the label releases Hikikomori. Contributors include Jared Bell (Lymbyc Systym), Alex Luquet (Sailcloth Sounds), Josh Weinstein (Kat Wright, Moonwake Beats), Spencer Murphy, Jason Reed, Steve Kimock and Mike Gordon. “Hikikomori was born out of some aural hallucinations and ambient sounds happening in my brain that literally drove me insane until I was able to get them out,” John explained.
Shpongle – Carnival Of Peculiarities
The Scoop: Legendary EDM act Shpongle returns with their first studio effort, the EP Carnival Of Peculiarities, since 2017’s Codex VI. The three-song sonic adventure from the psychedelic electronic outfit — which fittingly begins with the mystical “Mycelium Labyrinth” — takes listeners on a journey much like their famed live concerts, with songs seamlessly blending into one another and “pushing the limits of musical creativity even beyond barriers already broken by this legendary project,” as per a press release.
At the helm is Shpongle’s core duo of producer and multi-instrumentalist Simon Posford as well as woodwind master Raja Ram. Posford and Ram also welcomed virtuoso Sylvain Carton on double-reed horns for the title track. Posford’s Blüthner piano kicks off the final chapter of the journey, “Dr. Vinklestein Says,” an already road-tested excursion fans may recognize from the group’s mind-blowing productions at iconic locales like Red Rocks and more.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.