Review

Once again working with producer Gregg Wattenberg, who helmed 2009's Slice, John Ondrasik nevertheless shakes things up a little bit on 2013's Bookmarks. Ondrasik highlighted his classicist side on Slice, opting for lush, grandiose arrangements and a deliberate pace, but Bookmarks is considerably brighter, its sonic surfaces shining and its tempos sprightly. No longer operating on a ponderous, portentous level -- he's discarded the melancholic navel-gazing that brought him fame with "Superman" -- Ondrasik seems as if he's lifted a burden from his shoulders. His melodies are merrier, his lyrics dotted with hope, and, most appealingly of all, the entirety of Bookmarks is a highly polished piece of soft rock. Perhaps it belongs to an aesthetic that is slightly outdated -- ironically enough, the attitude and sound belong to turn-of-the millennium adult contemporary radio, which is when he was at the height of his commercial success -- but Bookmarks is surely the best-crafted adult pop released under the Five for Fighting name, its sturdy tunes wrapped up neatly in a shiny, appealing gloss. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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