He continues this thread on Spelled in Bones, singing lines about the lungs of whales or pollination as a way of seeking natural order amid romantic chaos. More noteworthy is the subtle shift in sound on this new record: rollicking drums, fuzzed-out guitar and flittering synths keep the opener "Lives of Crime" bopping right along. Former keyboardist/vocalist Gillian Lisée's harmonies, which made 2003's Mouthfuls such a joy, are missed on a few of these tracks -- though Johnson gets to near-castrati levels of falsetto on "Born in the '70s."
Still, although Johnson has again made an album of literate, catchy pop, little distinguishes one pretty, folksy song from another; there are no out-and-out stunners like the Mouthfuls bookends "Rainbow Sign" and "When U Love Somebody." Operating at such a high level of consistency is hardly a liability, but much of Spelled in Bones feels like an incomplete coda to the band's earlier work.
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