Imagine a withered flower standing in a once beautiful place now surrounded by war and death. Bombs explode and gunshots are fired but, in the midst of it all, that flower carries on and does its best to survive every day, hour, and minute. That’s the kind of imagery my mind conjured whilst listening to the latest project by Bomethius, As Roses, for the first time. Bomethius, the musical alias of Jonathan Hodges, is a lo-fi baroque pop project that revels in musical beauty and simplicity. His previous record, the ambitious and conceptual Intimatitudes, helped introduce the musical blueprint that would soon become its follow-up. The rough edges have been smoothed out and refined so if you were on board with Intimatitudes you will undoubtedly be on board here as well.
The record begins with a delicate, piano-led instrumental that acts as a sequel to the track “Offensive” off of Intimatitudes. This segues into a playful vocal melody that introduces the record’s titular track. “As Roses” is where the aforementioned imagery of perseverance and beauty comes to mind. Hodge’s vocals gracefully glide alongside the piano as he sings, “As roses a long line of blue / They smile indiscreetly up at you / The soul of the day in reward / You’re all that’s left so please keep from getting bored….So close your precious eyes little one / And seek comfort in the darkness, when you’ve done. / The flame burns from blue then to red / Now rest in the warmth restored of what’s been read.” It all makes for a truly harrowing yet hopeful tune. “Pax Romana” picks up the tempo with a song about the calamity of war and how history tends to be a cycle that keeps repeating itself. While not as melodically captivating as the record’s slower moments it’s a thought-provoking piece that demands attention. Similar things can be said for “Mis(ter)conduct,” another up-tempo number that plays on the theme of coercing people to think like others rather than themselves.
Another highlight that I cannot go without signalling out is “Oh Caroline,” the record’s gorgeous centrepiece and, in this reviewer’s eye, its most splendid offering. As Hodges cries, “Oh Caroline / I hope you’ve found a life to live and people with real love to give. / Time may never heal our wounds but we may as well bury them in these dunes….The moon upon my misdeeds many shines, and like Augustine, I’m richest in pears and lies…. Forgive me, I’ve mumbled. / Forgive me, I’ve stumbled,” you can feel the guilt and remorse in each line said.
Although the pacing can feel a little choppy, on a song by song basis, As Roses is nothing short of marvellous. If you’re looking for something unique and a little life-affirming I highly recommend picking this up. The link for Bandcamp is below where you can stream and buy the album.