Sweet Nothings is the third official album from Bomethius—alias Jonathan Hodges, presently from Dallas. A multi-instrumentalist who completed a degree in violin performance last year at Southern Methodist University, he produced nearly every sound you’ll hear in these recordings himself: the singing, playing the keyboards, the guitar, the violin, plus much of the engineering. The author-composer-performer’s personal investment in this project is difficult to miss.
The collection, available on all major streaming platforms, is book-ended by two songs that technically aren’t songs. First is the title track, something you’ll never hear Bomethius perform live because it consists of his voice overdubbed on itself a dozen or more times. And there are no words. But this voice, working over some two-and-a-half octaves with rich colors of tone and harmony, lures us out of mere daily life to explore with him for a while.
The ending piece isn’t a song because it isn’t vocal, rather for unaccompanied violin. Typically for Bomethius, the titles of these book-ending pieces play on each other: “Sweet Nothings” versus “Nothing’s Sweet.” And where the opening made full use of modern recording and editing techniques, the finale is simply one violin played in front of a mic, the persona joyful and striving.
It becomes quickly clear, as we step from the ethereal “Sweet Nothings” into the first of these explorations with sung words, that this fellow is not in a good mood. “Petrified Putrefaction” grabs our attention with slapped guitar strings and murky chords. The harsh third stanza overrides the philosophical musing at the start: “She can’t belong to you / Your misery is giving free tours.” The closing hammers, “Now we’re looking at / Petrified putrefaction.”
“Our Visit” is another sharp dialog, addressed more face-to-face than “Petrified Putrefaction,” with anger and regret bubbling up and spilling out. The text tells of a scene that begins with presumably real events but ends up churning in the persona’s mind as the intensity builds.
“Coming of Age” has the richest and most complex instrumental combinations. Besides Bomethius singing and playing keyboard and electric guitar, drums and bass are featured. The mood here is not precise as in the preceding tracks, though the distorted guitar at the end suggests mounting frustration.
The terse, moonless midnight of “The Lumin, a Kempton Hotel” disturbs with an odd piano, and wisps of sounds in the distance. Homesickness, however defined, is not new, but each creative artist experiences it in a new way. As simple as the song’s building blocks are, the emotional pain is profound: “Just take me home” — and we’re not sure what home is.
The latter portion of the album brings in a romantic thread. “My Clementine” is sweeter, though still painful for mourning personal loss. In “Drown Me” that Other—a different Other than in “Clementine” — is present, though the relationship seems longed for, not quite fulfilled. “Home,” a subdued piano solo, is overtly sweet, possibly portraying the home longed for in “The Lumin.”
“Peace of Mind” begins to disperse the darkness that has covered the album up to this point. Even then, “True Love Weights (Boofuw Buwfwy)” is a surprise for this artist: a happy love song. The listener can hear arrival, resolution, completion.
All of Bomethius’ compositions challenge the listener to extract sense and significance from text, music, orchestration, even the recorded production. More so than in previous albums, this one unfolds an artist’s journey from darkness to light. Hodges requires you to read his texts and listen to his pieces numerous times if you wish to join him on his journey. The journey is rich and rewarding.