There’s something to be said for artists who have a strong sense of personal and artistic identity. Although a performance that comes from the soul may seem like a nonsensical or highly romanticized way to depict said performance, it remains true that there’s a magic to some pieces of music that can come only from the artist’s own hand. Bomethius, the musical alter-ego of singer/songwriter Jonathan Hodges, is a hidden gem that well encapsulates this mystery. His unique blend of folk and baroque pop create a charmingly vintage style that is unlike anything I’ve heard in the genre in quite some time. However, how he weaves these beautiful sounds through tales of love and grief is what makes his music soul-stirring.
The latest album from Bomethius, Sweet Nothings, presents the next step in Hodges’ musical evolution. Whilst his previous record, the cautiously hopeful As Roses, mixed a number of different styles rather forthrightly, Sweet Nothings bides for a more nuanced and decidedly maturer approach. From the familiar barbershop sounds of the opening title-track and its antithetical closer to the flourishes of Jazz on the soulful lament of “Our Visit.” There’s even a touch of blues on “Coming of Age” that sounds like a lost product of Pink Floyd’s glory days. These different strokes of influence are blended seamlessly into Hodges’ signature style and the record’s cohesion is made all the better for it.
This musical cohesion also plays a role in the record’s thematic arc, as Hodges’ spins tales of lost love, questions the cruel nature of time, and ponders the problem of grief. The character called Bomethius wonders how people can be so illogically attracted to their own misery on “Petrified Putrefaction,” only to succumb to the same temptation on “Coming of Age” where he wonders why time must insist on “Ticking us off (as it goes)” and why he can’t just “grumble and buckle?” in bitter response. He longs for a family and a sense of belonging on “The Lumin, a Kempton Hotel” and on “My Clementine,” he returns to a former spark in hopes that romantic love can provide the cure to his isolation, only to realize that his misery and cynicism was the very thing that once drove it away. “We thought me you could fix / You were my Charon on this river styx / But across this river is a deadened world / And I’d seen enough to abandon ship / Now we’re trailing off in our own directions.”
At the close of the record, he wonders why life remains beautiful even in the face of his grief and suffering. How, when we’re so lost inside our own cages and empty shells, is love still able to find us? It’s a mystery we may never find the answer to, but as long as it’s out there, that’s enough. As long as we yearn for it there remains hope that one day we’ll finally find it and all of the pain, suffering, and grief will be worthwhile. “My love, can’t you feel it? / How I long after you? / My love, please don’t fear it —I’m here to suffer with you.”
Sweet Nothings is an intimate record that is at once incredibly charming and almost uncomfortably relatable. Nothing might seem sweet in a world of suffering, but records like these can keep us hoping, and searching, for something that is.