Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, likes to keep things simple in the name of creativity by restraint. Live and on his live-like records, the former guitarist for Feist works with just the basics, paring down his arrangements to himself, two female vocalists, plenty of silence and maybe a drummer.
At first listen, Barchords, his sophomore album, is bright, catchy and carefree, especially the buoyant chords of “Caught Me Thinking.” But the songs can be heavy. The generous padding of pauses and oozy, slow pacing leaves room for sentiments to expand, as on love-lost tribute “Snow Plow.” The darkness can hang on a single word, as on “Any Other Way,” a giddy folk ditty that ostensibly celebrates a pregnancy, but hints at a miscarriage or an abortion with an “if”—“If the little baby that’s inside of you stays.” The economy makes for an equally, commandingly intimate stage presence.
Though he’s signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label, Jurvanen, who grew up in Barrie, Ontario, isn’t some typical beach bum, despite having named himself after a tropical archipelago. The self-taught guitarist gets that his band name belies the melancholy tracks on his album. “I think if I had called the band Alaska, people would digest those songs in a really different way,” he told the blog Mule Variations.
To him, the Bahamas represent not surf rock nor reggae, but an oasis, just a “there” to the “here” of the everyday.