MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2012|
Posted by: Malcolm Donaldson
In 2009, Bahamas debut Pink Strat was far from Afie Jurvanen's initiation into the music world. He's been working for years with fellow Canadians Feist, Jason Collett and Zeus. Listening to Bahamas' new record, Barchords, you'll wonder why this road-worn guitarist hadn't started his own band earlier. The songs blend surf-rock guitar reverb with Americana folk without deserving to be pegged into any genre, and Jurvanen sings with purpose on this album, sounding like he has been a lead-man his whole career.
Album opener "Lost In The Light" exemplifies what makes Bahamas catchy and attractive to the ear. The song starts with slow and steady electric guitar and a simple drum beat. From the start Jurvanen's confident voice is at the center of the mix, and that's where it stays. "The singing was a big thing for me on this album," the Bahamas front man told us in a recent Q+A, "I wanted that instrument of the human voice to be a connecting thing from song to song." The voice is definitely what drives this album, and it's not just Jurvanen's: some of the best moments are when the two backing singers, Carleigh Aikins and Felicity Williams, join in at the climax of the song. The chorus of "Lost In The Light" is the first instance when the band's connection is unusually powerful.
While it would be easy to catagorize Bahamas music as "love songs," the title would limit the scope of Barchords' lyrics. The emotional depth of the songs go past a childhood crush, and dig as deep as a heart getting pulled out of your chest. The eerie immediate ending of "Snow Plow" proves that simple lyrics do not always equal simple emotion. Some songs with a happy sound are lyrically dark, and vice versa, but the conflict of the sounds is never wallowing in pity. The trio sings, "No love's for sure" but the four-word payoff is indescribable. It's mature restraint like that which makes Barchords reveal musical and thematic layers upon repeat listening. Bahamas' future is bright and murky all at once-- the band is capable of evoking the sunshine of the Caribbean and the cold winds of Canada in the same breath.