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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Fruit Bats
Spelled In Bones
Sub Pop Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


July 26, 2005
Try as he might, Eric Johnson can't sound menacing. Even when softly cooing some of my favorite lines on 2003's Mouthfuls - "If I broke my jaw for you, I'd find a bloody tooth and rip it out," and "When you love somebody and bite your tongue, all you get is a mouthful of blood" - he comes off as charming, optimistic and well-meaning. Such visceral words would sound more frightening if tumbling from Waits' gruff lips, but good ol' loveable Eric is as sweetly doomed as Charlie Brown.

Spelled in Bones started off, the resident Peanut admits, as a purposefully dark album. Then, he states, things looked up in his life. Lucy held the football still; the cloud over his head scuttled off and the red-haired girl remembered his name. Or something like that. Once this analogy stops running amok and everything clears, I should be able to proudly relay to you the arrival of his brightest and most thoughtful album to date.

As Mouthfuls was marked by wide-eyed awe, Spelled in Bones is characterized by a hardened sense of wisdom, the likes of which feels like a hero unspooling his epic story upon returning to his people. Just as Eric Johnson said, Spelled in Bones is not a dark album, but it is more adult than his previous efforts. Gone is the skewed simplicity, the easy, overwhelming blacks and whites of songs like "The Magic Hour", and in their place are cross-hatched illustrations of lost innocence and newfound courage.

"There is peace in the belly of the beast," he relates on "TV Waves", and while we know his journey to that spot must have been harrowing, all we hear about is the warm, enveloping calm. The imagery may not be as graphically romantic as giving someone your tooth, but it is romantic in the broader, more heroic sense. Spelled In Bones is an anthology of legends' tales, to be played softly as the morning awakens. With birds chirping just outside of car doors and eyes still matted from a night of rest, this album is meant to inspire majestic things in brand new days; it brings the knowledge that even dark tales can spring moments of unequalled victory. Everything here is filled to the brim.

To be sure, life feels more lived on this album; while nothing is approached with any sense of urgency - the ease and comfort of the Fruit Bats' signature sound is still present - moments seem more imperative and necessary than before. Even on tracks where previously the outlook would be unequivocally sunny (and occasionally biting), like "Every Day That We Wake Up It's a Beautiful Day", the imagery seems richer and more important, the scope grander and the story more momentous. Now, such a statement can be made without a trace of irony. While this track consists solely of the ten titular words and a swelling of natural sounds, it has the ability to take one's breath away.

With its elegant simplicity, Spelled in Bones may not be concerned with being an epic, but it unwittingly becomes one; it is an album capable of stirring something greater within its audience. Even when playing with light mariachi on "Legs of Bees" or saloon pianos on "The Earthquake of '73", Eric Johnson reveals themes of man and nature, internal turbulence and the limitless expanses that drive us to explore. "I won't return back to the run of the mill again," our unsung hero croons on "Canyon Girl", and after what we've been through together, we believe him.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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