Barchords by Bahamas (Universal Republic, 2012. 39 minutes)
Bahamas is the stage name of Afie (AY-fee) Jurvanen, who is a Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter. He is a self-taught musician who has toured with Feist and Beck. His freshman release, Pink Strat, won the 2010 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year.
Barchords is the sophomore album released by Bahamas, and it’s usually around the second release where I start legitimately listening to a musician. I’ve found that the growth from the first to second album is generally a good indicator of how successful a musician’s career will be overall. If Barchords serves as any indicator of Bahamas’ future success, he surely will be challenging the soul-and-roots greats with his musical prowess soon. Afie Juvanen’s vocal delivery and soulful, Black-Keys-esque guitar playing create a sound that is hard to categorize: the sound of both subtlety and intensity.
If I were to categorize Barchords and give it genre, I would call it “Quintessential Canadian” because the album is extremely polite and quaint; Juvanen even has a song labeled “Montreal”. Barchords is incredibly thoughtful, but at the same time communicates a sense of subdued urgency. The best song on the album, “Lost in the Light”, communicates these qualities well. There is an inextricable, lush beauty within, and with the sparse, grooving backtrack the song is pure auditory nirvana, especially once the chorus enters. The track becomes a near-religious experience with all the perspicacious texture behind it.
Bahamas then goes on to give homage to George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” in his original tune, “Okay, Alright, I’m Alive”. The song’s sentiment is of a woman for whom he’s smitten; it is just enough to have her warmth nearby. And, with the velvety warm vocals that Jurvangen provides, I’m sure there’s plenty of warmth to go around. The song begins with a simple drum beat, and then a single sustained atmospheric, reverb heavy guitar note; it’s just plain good.
“Every time the phone rings, I run / Every time George sings here comes the sun / Every time I feel like it’s all been done / That’s okay, that’s alright I’m alive”
When a Cover Transforms a Song
Lastly, I’ve never liked Sonny and Cher. So the song “I Got You Babe” has never been a favorite of mine. Bahamas’ version of the song has completely re-done lyrics and melody; Bahamas’ version is nothing like the original. One might say it’s a completely different song with the same title in the lyrics. The track carries a simple guitar riff throughout, and adds a bit of complexity to the dark, yet saccharine lyrics.
“I sang loud / My voice cut through the crowd / As if I was anybody that might have something to say / Standing tall I seemed to know it all / But the only thing I know is that I’ve never known someone like you / I’m gonna figure out how it is”
Barchords is the kind of album that you want to play at a party—not the rave kind of party—but the sipping-wine-and-having-good-conversation kind of party. The album, if spun in the background is unassuming, but still powerful enough that someone will inevitably turn to their neighbor and utter “this album is really good, who is the artist?” It’s Bahamas, and you really should get the album—there isn’t a bad track on it.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Posted by: Andrew Jacobson