Davey Von Bohlen, lead singer for Maritime and former member of Cap’n Jazz and The Promise Ring, has one of those voices: simultaneously vulnerable, headstrong, world-weary, and confident, it’s so unique and expressive that it makes every song interesting. The years since Cap’n Jazz’s early-’90s heyday have made his voice less precise but no less affecting; the songs on Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones, Maritime’s fifth record, vary in tone and tempo, but the voice remains constant.
Magnetic Bodies finds Maritime mostly lean and propulsive. After the midtempo leadoff track, “Nothing Is Forgot,” eases the listener into the album, the crackling “Satellite Love” (which nods to the thumping rhythm section of The Cure’s “Close To Me”) and the soaring “Roaming Empire” drive the record with surprising confidence. Then comes “Light You Up,” Magnetic Bodies’ blistering, bittersweet centerpiece. “I would start a fire to light you up,” sings Von Bohlen, followed by, “I might fight a war to shout your name.” It’s a nakedly emotional sentiment that sounds appropriately desperate in Von Bohlen’s delivery, and the song’s urgently beautiful chorus is Maritime at its best.
The rest of Magnetic Bodies doesn’t quite live up to its early potential, but it comes impressively close. Mid-album tracks “War Tattoos” and “Collar Bones” are as unfocused as the first few songs are crystal clear, and “Inside Out” passes by inoffensively amid a flurry of distortion. “Love You In The Dark” squanders some of its goodwill by ending with a “la-la-la” refrain, but its arrangement, with acoustic guitars and electric 12-strings lending some jangle, makes up for any missteps.
Album closer “When The Bone Moon Dies”—a swaying blur of indie-pop noise featuring Von Bohlen sweetly singing, “On and on, if you hear me now, come on / If you’re breathing hard, come on, come on”—sounds like one last plea for someone, anyone, to follow him into the darkness. Damned if it doesn’t work.