One of the most refreshingly direct and enjoyable albums of the year so far.
James Skinner 2012-05-02
“I’m putting this album out at a time when there’s so much competition to be heard,” notes Afie Jurvanen in the press materials surrounding Barchords, his second album as Bahamas, before going on to consider the difficulty of forging and maintaining connections in the digital age. Whether that be on a personal scale or regarding the countless new acts it is now easier to gain access to than ever before, he makes a good point; it is intimidating, and is something he chooses to counter by simply putting himself out there.
This record arrives in the UK off the back of some impressive press for his 2009 debut Pink Strat, which received nominations in his native Canada from the Polaris and Juno Prizes respectively. But it is, at first, a little underwhelming. The fact that he spent years recording and touring with Feist on keys and guitars is readily apparent in its tasteful production and simple melodies, while his voice is languid, relaxed – a honeyed M. Ward; a less-soporific Jack Johnson (whose Brushfire imprint picked this up, incidentally).
But give the record a chance – really, it won’t take long – and it turns out to be his voice that makes it a little bit special, giving it an edge over the thousands of other albums Jurvanen frets it might wind up lost beside. Put simply, Barchords is an enormously likeable set of songs, and it is his voice that anchors and steers them.
Lead single Caught Me Thinking is a breezy, brassy delight; Overjoyed a rousing, bluesy ballad; and listening to album opener Lost in the Light a little deeper, a little louder, reveals the almost magical sense of urgency that lights up his former collaborator’s catalogue.
Barchords sounds bright and sparkling, too; again, were it not for the promise of greater depth lying plainly amongst these songs it would be easy to dismiss them as bland, empty offerings. As it stands, Bahamas’ music fulfils that promise in a manner so assured and unaffected that it ranks as one of the most refreshingly direct and enjoyable albums of the year so far.