Sweet Nothings

by Bomethius

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about

Without a doubt Bomethius’ strongest and most mature effort to date, Sweet Nothings showcases the considerable songwriting talents of Dallas-based musician Jonathan Hodges more fully than anything else he’s produced.

In his earlier work, the capable multi-instrumentalist certainly impressed with his energy, zeal, and tender command of his instruments. Spry meditations on selfhood, love, hope, and purpose, his first two records exploited an array of styles to evoke the deepest doubts that attend the alienation and rage of youth. There were moving confessional ballads, contemptuous snarls at the world’s incoherence, musical parodies, and more. However, keen listeners knew far greater and more mature music would follow as Hodges continued to find and refine his sound. Well, here it is.

His third release as Bomethius, Sweet Nothings opens with its brief title track, 100 seconds of pleasantly harmonized, wordless persiflage that increasingly takes on a melancholy tone. On one hand, it’s the sound of finding happiness in sorrow. On the other, it’s a kind of exalted and manic indifference to the troubles of the world and one’s own soul. Its scatting melody becomes a refrain that recurs throughout the record, tying together some of its most poignant songs.

“Petrified Putrefaction” borrows this melody first as background vocals to a savage lay about abandoning people addicted to their own misery and pessimism. A soft, slow piano roams a catchy chord progression in “Our Visit,” an accusatory lament about facing flaws in loved ones, before the same manically indifferent sounds of the title track return in a longing, falsetto refrain. With its deliberate upright bass and bluesy electric guitar, “Coming of Age” crawls through a scornful complaint against God and time that dissolves in distortion and anger.

Like “Petrified Putrefaction,” “Peace of Mind” pays a kind of saintly homage to Elliott Smith with its double-tracked vocals and adroit guitar work. Fittingly, it’s also an attempt at self- exorcism as it narrates a potent battle with addictions to grief and self-pity. After the bridge, the oohs of the title track return to accompany the refrain (“I won’t go down with this ship / I’ve abandoned loose ends / And that’s how I’ll do it for now”), suggesting his professed triumph may be just another “sweet nothing” after all.

With barely three chords, “The Lumin, a Kempton Hotel” stands out — a minimalist, single- track, lo-fi heartbreaker that clocks in just shy of a minute and a half. As background noise recalls Sufjan Stevens’ iPhone recordings, the song laments the dissolution of the word “home” and its estrangement from the people and places who once defined it. Adapted from the name of the four-star hotel across the street from Hodges’ university campus, the title sneers at the idea of thoughtless elites wallowing in the amenity-laden joys of a manufactured anywhere while others suffer a permanent exile of the soul.

In the manner of a form poem, simple stinging lines repeat the word “home” in different senses, showing the crooked ways its meaning mutates and expires. In one line, the word “alone,” with the same long vowel, replaces it: “I’m a long way from my family / But my family’s not home / Home’s a long way from my family / And it’s home I long to be ... I’m alone when with my family / Just take me home.” Lacking his sense of place or belonging and unable to account for the changes that have sullied his memories, he dispenses with the facts and resorts to pleading for a thing he can’t even describe.

“My Clementine” is another nod to Elliott Smith, a smoldering attack on the frauds of memory that not only reinterprets the traditional folk song but also complements Smith’s own haunting variation of it. Instead of blithely lamenting the loss of a beloved, Bomethius here begs a tortured old flame to be his Clementine — meaning, a person “lost and gone forever,” drowned just the same, but this time in the River Styx of his mind. It’s a conflicted plea, however. As memories of the toxic affair feed his appetite for shame, he can’t help but hold on to her for just a bit longer.

A clean, whimsical guitar solo offsets a stormy piano in “Drown Me,” one of the few anchors amid the record’s manifold doubt and indifference. Narrating the tortuous path of rediscovering purpose after losing it, Bomethius insolently spurns the respectable but false satisfactions of life — journey, travel, success, wealth. In the song’s beautiful, yearning coda, he instead focuses on the irresolvable basics of existence — time, place, doubt, and damage — all in flux and answerable only by love: “We’re always leaving / Leaving home / And rolling away from our loaned stones / On this plain of never-ending bones / I want to stay with you.”

A stirring piano instrumental, “Home” sounds like the score to a familiar daydream: imagining idyllic family home videos from childhood while knowing they probably don’t exist. A soft, playful melody flits up and down the staff — like a dreamer ascending a staircase of memories in the mind — forever careful to avoid waking anything deeper and more disturbing from the vaults. While somewhat invested in maintaining the pleasant delusion, Bomethius refuses to resolve the song’s mounting tension. As he falters on the last stair, it’s clear he’s gone as far as he can unless he wants to ruin the dream. Instead of wrapping it up with a neat and pretty chord, he closes with hesitation and fragile dissonance — timid, barely audible, and yet hopeful. It shows how much he wants to love these things that trouble him, how much he wants to avoid anger and disappointment, and how difficult that struggle has been.

The record closes with “Nothing’s Sweet,” a tempestuous violin solo that pays tribute to Andrew Bird with its instrumentation as well as its title, which inverts the name of the album and the first track. (Bird bookended his 2009 masterwork Noble Beasts with “Oh No” and “On Ho!”) While it begins like a lullaby, the solo grows increasingly harsh as the melody makes several abortive attempts to soar out of the storm. They all fail to maintain flight and come crashing down, belying the doubts that even the radiant and pure “True Love Weights” couldn’t dispel.

Even so, Sweet Nothings closes, not with despair, but with balance. And while that balance may amount to nothing more than an exalted strain of indifference, it’s sweet anyway because it has found a way to ignore the pain through love. There’s no naïveté here, though. These songs clearly don’t suggest love solves everything. Nevertheless, despite its imperfections and shortcomings, it’s still the only source of true fulfillment in a life of loss and sorrow.

credits

released July 14, 2019

Special thanks to:
Travis Carroll for 1) generously allowing me to record most of this album with his equipment; 2) being the first line of review and conversation for everything I write and record, and 3) singing the lowest part in the a cappella title track — he really saved the day.
Ricky Roshell for the amazing clarinet and bass clarinet performances on Drown Me and Our Visit (respectively).
Jeff Tullis for providing the al-right up-right bass performance on Coming of Age. (just kidding. ur pretty gud.)
Nic Wells for providing the drums on Coming of Age, and patiently recording with me for the 6 hours it took to get it right. (apparently you are not supposed to use a single condenser mic to record a drum set... lol)
Benjamin Hodges for providing copy and a full length review for the album, and guiding my early sonic palette and direction as an artist.
David Mead for his critical ears, pointed questions, and warm friendship.*
Kevin Hanlon for his encouragement and conversation.
David Gale Smith for his generosity in allowing t(his) painting "Clarion Call" to be used for the album artwork.
Jon Hodges (The Fat Man) for leaving his nicer acoustic behind so that I had a guitar to write, record, and perform with.
Jenny Hodges (My Mammy) for telling me that all of my writing was "complete crap," for most of my childhood. She knows best how to terrify one into 1) hopeless inaction; 2) the inconsolably endless need to act, write, create, and perform; and 3) perpetual dissatisfaction with your own work. When the kitchen is trashed, and I haven't written a single good thing all day, her voice is the loudest in my head. It typically motivates me to be a better person — or at least a cleaner person. :D My roommates are thankful.
Mr. G for his friendship, wisdom, conversation, questions, and guidance. He manages to remain unreachable until I'm actually in need, and he's one of the few friends I've managed to keep past childhood. I'm forever grateful to and for him.
Cynthia Gu for being my long suffering and supportive muse — you are a boofuw buwfwy (read Beautiful Butterfly) and I wuv ewe.

The following names purchased the first Bomethius t-shirts to ever be made. They financially supported the final stages of production and advertising for this album, and I am forever grateful for their support:
Katharina Weber, Penelope Batts, Anna Demeusy, Mollie Mulvey, Caroline Hodges, Dewey and Margaret Hodges, Floyd Easterman, Madison Pruden, Qiyun Dai, and John Wagner.

Written, performed (with exceptions noted above), recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jonathan Hodges.
Locations include my apartment, SMU, and my parent's house in Minneapolis
(I was up there for Christmas and managed to finish and record "My Clementine" on my Dad's first guitar. I grew up watching him play it, wondering if I would ever get to play it — kinda neat.)

*The intonation issues in this album exist for the sole purpose of pissing off Dr. Mead.

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about

Bomethius Dallas, Texas

Bomethius is the alter ego recording alias of Jonathan Hodges (b. 10-10-96), a Dallas based musician. An accomplished violinist, Hodges started studying music at age 3. Addressing doubts, fears, and disappointments from his own personal experience, Hodges recorded the first two Bomethius albums alone in his bathroom and quickly developed a unique baroque pop sound informed by melancholy, and wit. ... more

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Track Name: Petrified Putrefaction
Nothing seems to still
God’s sinking stones
To wet our souls with guilt
And courage to drown in tomes

The lion’s share of flowers
Left still to wilt
It shakes your faulty towers
Your lies like threads left to quilt

Our righteousness is not yours
Please stop bleeding your sores
She can’t belong to you
Your misery is giving free tours

Now we’re stuck in the middle
Our thoughts crash together
And there’s no cure

You drink in your verses
But context it would appear is only there to ignore
Now we’re looking at

Petrified putrefaction — Now we’re looking at
Petrified putrefaction — Now we’re looking at
Petrified putrefaction
Track Name: Our Visit
Our visit was cut short
By the visions that plagued my view

And the wine had soured over what I saw in you
And what I saw in me

Could I have really ever
Done all that much better?
Or was God just looking out for me?

Does being a singer mean
I can’t have a family?
Or that they just can’t stand you?

Are you still young enough
To believe in ambition?
You asked me

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

But brother I’ll say it
When with the stories I compared it
The stories seemed grotesquely
Tame

Do as we please
Please as we do
Just don’t compare me to you

Do as we please
Please as we do
Just don’t compare me to you
Track Name: Coming of Age
And so we have time to kill
As if time stood still
Ticking us off, as it goes

Old man won’t you change your mind?
“Tradition,” they lied
“Is steeped in pure reason.”

Won’t you wait in an orderly line?
Or must you grumble and buckle?
For what do we struggle?

Changes take seasons
As seasons change
We’re learning the curve
None of us will be the same...

We’re coming of age
Still bound in time’s chains
Ticking us off (as it goes)

Must we wait in an orderly line?
Why can’t we, grumble and buckle?
For your sake we struggle

Kill the alarm; but mind the ticking
Kill the alarm; but mind the ticking
Track Name: The Lumin, a Kempton Hotel
I’m a long way from my family
But my family’s not home

Home’s a long way from my family
And it’s home I long to be

What is real?
What is real?

I’m alone when with my family
Just take me home
Just take me home

Just take me home
Track Name: My Clementine
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

Won’t you be my Clementine?
I thought that you were mine
But it all ran amuck
And I can’t get you unstuck...
Won’t you be my clementine?

I was so ashamed
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
Sometimes I think it could have worked
But that’s just insurrection
In the face of what hurts
It’s only memories
We have yet to burn

So Darling, won’t you be my Clementine?
I hope you managed to be fine
I hope we get past all the lost time
Won’t you be my Clementine?
Won’t you be my Clementine?
Track Name: Drown Me
Drown me in my own glass of water
And wipe the smile dry from my cold lips

This town is just like the others
Can’t you see the icebergs from their tips?

If you stop searching like Hugh Hefner
Because you think you've found the answer
You’ll have little left to sell
And you're definitely going to hell

We’re always leaving
Leaving home
And rollin away from our loaned stones
On this plain of never ending bones

I want to stay with you
I want to stay with you
I want to stay with you
Track Name: Peace of Mind
Maybe I have a problem in my mind
I just need the truth to be kind
Set aside what has ailed you for some time
Only to find
Peace of mind

I’ve begun to wonder am I fine?
Weren’t all wounds healed by time?
But this mountain’s too steep to climb
Troubles of
My own design

The nonsense is reeling
My insides are screaming
Alone in the dealing of

The pain that assaults me
And tells me I love me
I want me to hold me

The longing and grieving
My own joy is thieving
Can’t I let it go? Can’t I let it go?

The root embittered has run deep
For all the hurts I want to keep
To comfort myself when I weep
But now it seems
I just want to sleep

The nonsense is reeling
My insides are healing
It’s the joy I’ve missed feeling

I won’t go down with this ship
I’ve abandoned loose ends
And that’s how I’ll do it for now

I won’t go down with this ship
I’ve abandoned loose ends
And that’s how I’ll do it for now
Track Name: True Love Weights (Boofuw Buwfwy)
Why is life so beautiful
So beautiful to me?
Why is your smile so beautiful
So beautiful to see?

Your joy sheds the scales of your pain
Even when you’re standing in the rain

Volumes could never speak
Of your grace in defeat
But your smile speaks volumes
With just enough volume for me

My love, can’t you hear it?
I’m calling out to you
My love, please don’t fear it
I’m here to suffer with you

Live and love, ah but there’s the rub
Is there anybody out there
Who’s really doing either?

After all the tears and failures
We’ve seen each other through
They don’t seem to take away
To take away from you
And anyway It’ll all be gone too soon

Your smile is an anchor
In this tempest’s rage
And though it’s hardly over
It seems we’ll be ok
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

I know why you’re so beautiful
You’re so beautiful to me
You make my life so beautiful
You’re so beautiful to me
It’s in the things this world cannot see
And you’re all I’ll ever need

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