On Mouthfuls, the Fruit Bats tone down the twang of their debut, Echolocation, and offer something closer to a mix of late-’60s/early-’70s folk and bubblegum shot through with unpredictable electronic elements that, paradoxically, make the group’s music seem even more homemade and organic. Most of the songs have sunny, winding melodies and arrangements that twist and turn until they end up in a completely different place than where they began; “A Bit of Wind” starts out as a simple, jangly singalong and gradually adds a brass band, strings, and flutes until it becomes a sweeping pop symphony. The lilting vocals and bittersweet harmonies on “Rainbow Sign” and “Magic Hour” call to mind the Fruit Bats’ labelmates, the Shins, although the Fruit Bats’ brand of summery, psych-tinged pop is much mellower. From beginning to end, Mouthfuls radiates laid-back contentment, but it’s to the band’s credit that this vibe rarely dips into laziness or complacency, even on relatively simple pastoral interludes like “Track Rabbits.” Actually, there’s a lot going on within the album’s serenity, especially on tracks like “Union Blankets,” which features an intricate mix of programmed and live percussion underneath its strummy acoustic guitars and close harmonies, and on “The Little Acorn,” which begins as a drifting, Radar Brothers-esque ballad before adding sparkling synths and soft rock-inspired backing vocals. Toward the end of Mouthfuls, the Fruit Bats return to the country-folk fusions of Echolocation, and while they’re still very pretty, they don’t quite capture the imagination the way the album’s earlier, more experimental tracks do. Still, when an album is as effortlessly warm and pretty as this one is, it’s hard to begrudge the band a return to more familiar sonic pastures, and even more so when Mouthfuls suggests that the Fruit Bats’ next album will be even more winning. – Heather Pharesmore »
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