Our Take: Bomethius’ Pleasantly Unpleasant ‘Sweet Nothings’ Is a Folk Masterpiece Hiding in Plain Sight


Anthony's Take

10 Our Rating
Bomethius’ ‘Sweet Nothings’ lingers on the inevitable passage of time and how the sweetness of our youth turns to rot the more we learn to be honest with ourselves, making the first, second, and even tenth listen so aesthetically reasoned and agonizingly deep that one wonders what life was like before they came across it.

Until I die, I will work to pleasantly convey the unpleasant.

There’s a specific type of intimacy to being somewhere you’ve never been before. Especially when traveling alone, that intimacy can feel either peaceful or petrifying — often flipping like a coin at the slightest provocation.

Listen: Sweet Nothings – Bomethius

Sweet Nothings – Bomethius

What began as pleasant can dip to an eerie introspection as you disappear down serpentine streets with only yourself for company. You may not always like what you find there.

This sense of isolation runs rampant through Sweet Nothings, the third full-length album from Dallas-based multi-instrumentalist Bomethius. At first blush, these songs evoke the excitement of exploration. Often armed with no more than an acoustic guitar and searing vocals, he conjures visions of winding European alleyways after a spring rain, cobblestone glistening in a muted morning light. Shut your eyes and images swim into view of drinking wine at a Parisian bistro, a busker plucking his strings on a stool across the avenue. All the arrangements are kept deliberately minimal, lending the whole affair a sense of proximity, like it’s a coffee shop show meant for only a handful of interlopers sipping their chai as the day outside deepens from orange to blue. This is music for reminiscing on vagabond days before life reared its ugly head.

But as good as it feels to look back, those memories hide their reality behind Instagram filters and selective recall. In these pieces of baroque pop wistfulness, Bomethius sows the seed of youth gone steadily sour. Time marches on, leaving carefree days on a shrinking horizon. The blossoms of spring eventually wither and fall into the dirt.

Bomethius © Caleb Smith

Were you ever young enough
To believe in basic responsibility?
I ask you now
Nothing is as I remembered
But I suppose it’s stayed the same

Bomethius is the pseudonym of singer-songwriter Jonathan Hodges. Instead of bearing his own name for his work, Hodges uses the persona as a mask of sorts, not to create a fictional narrative, but as a chance to dig deep. “Initially, the point was to be vulnerable to the nth degree while still hiding behind the character,” he explains. “So that my audience was more uncomfortable than I was.” The more naked and confessional his work grew though, the more impossible it became to escape his own honesty. “At every point where I have found myself more uncomfortable, I tend to find that I am growing in terms of what my art probably should be — as opposed to what it has been. ‘Sweet Nothings’ makes me the most uncomfortable of my work to date, and I believe this to be a good thing.”

The beauty of this album is its simplicity. On the surface, it plays like an unplugged Andrew Bird session with all his folk experimentation but bakes in a vulnerability, not unlike Elliott Smith. These songs are memories once looked at fondly that reveal sinking truths the longer you stare.

My Clementine” sways along like an acoustic Iron & Wine love ballad, but cracks and crumbles on closer inspection.

Darling won’t you be my Clementine
I don’t remember you now
When we met or how
But I loved you once the way I can’t
Love me now
And that’s why I left you and this town
Bomethius © Barbara Brands

It’s one thing to pine for love lost; it’s another beast altogether to recognize your lack of self-worth driving that loss. The longer you look at fading photographs, taking in smiling faces from a faraway past, the more you recognize it as a mask. The genius of Sweet Nothings is how deftly Bomethius hides these therapy sessions behind simple, soothing folk music. “I think I’ve managed to get closer to caging unpleasantness in more pleasant ways,” he supposes. And indeed this feels like a glowing path through the darkness.

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:: stream/purchase Sweet Nothings here ::

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Sweet Nothings

an album by Bomethius

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