Saving Pages, Saving Graces
4 Out Of 5 Stars
John Ondrasik and his alter-ego, Five For Fighting return with the follow-up to the excellent "Slice." Utilizing his special brand of piano based pop, "Bookmarks" is another set of catchy melancholy, with John's voice riding his piano lines and breaking into an occasional beautiful falsetto. He runs down a road between Elton John (the terrific "Symphony Lane") and Ben Folds, without the snark. I also felt a lot like I was hearing "Coldplay" in the poppy "Your Man."
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 13 years since the quavering voice that sang "Superman" has matured into a singer of relationships and family values (as in, he's got kids and likes to sing about them). First single "What If" explores all those themes at once, or the opening call to strength for "Stand Up." I also found it kind of cool that John would lytic check Hank Williams' "Hey Good Looking" at the beginning of "Down." Always good to know that the man has a sense of history.
That may also be true about both the beautiful if elegiac "The Day I Died" and the Dylan-esque (yes, really) lyrics in "I Don't Want Your Love," which sounds like a direct lineage to "Make You Feel My Love." "The Day I Died" is positively gorgeous, with just John and his piano singing a torch song. Despite my enjoying all the pop conventions and confections on "Bookmarks" (or the whole of Five For Fighting's albums), I think this may be the crowning song of a career. Again, reaching back to Elton John's best work, it's an emotionally packed song that needs nothing else than John's piano and voice. It's the kind of naked honestly that singers who feel they must rely on over-production or of-the-moment sounds could take a lesson or two from.
It brings "Bookmarks" to a moving and satisfying conclusion. While early listening make me think "Slice" may have been the better album, "The Day I Died" is all the reason you'll need to listen to "Bookmarks."