Written By: Emma Robins
Jonathan Hodges’ newest album, Gender is a Fluid, is relentlessly melancholic, yet stylistically versatile. The lyrics hold fast to this melancholy; “I’m afraid I can’t have you/But I’m elated you can’t have me (“Certain Uncertainty”), “So I’ll cry in the shower, get it all out…it doesn’t really even matter what it’s all about (“Garbage Men: Hell on Earth”). Hodges’ voice is reminiscent of the melodically dissonant stylings of Andrew Bird, though Hodges spends more time in the falsetto range. At times, Hodges’ reliance on layered voices and multiple melodies played simultaneously can be as impactful as they can be distracting, though provocative lyrics and Hodge’s haunting voice often make up for it.
Though it is a self-described “break up album,” Gender is a Fluid seems to be more unified under a theme of dichotomy, reflected in both the music and lyrics– the track “Wrestlessness” wanders between jazz-influences and a jaunty folk feel. Meanwhile, lyrics such as “revolutions are just misspelled disasters (“Kill It With Fire (Get Rid of It)” and “in your smile, misery never looked so good (SMILE) speak to internal tension. Hodges’ exploration of the enigmatic and paradoxical results in melodic discord which are at times chaotic, and can make each track seem disjointed within itself. When this technique lands, however, it is incredibly powerful to hear.
Hodges leaves the album title intentionally vague, a move which is intriguing, but ultimately disappointing, as the lyrical talent exemplified in this album show potential for a complex exploration of gender identity through music. Regardless, the album is a worthwhile listen, as it takes the audience into mostly accessible, but striking, tracks which demand emotional involvement.
Though mournful in almost its entirety, Gender is a Fluid ends on a hopeful note with the track “PLANS”, which begs “whatever happens, will you still be my friend at the end,” implying a note of hope while the violin sings.
Hodge’s 9-track album can be found on Bandcamp.