In Rotation: Bahamas' "Bar Chords." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now...
Despite the nom de song chosen by Canadian singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen, and his association with surf-dude musician Jack Johnson’s record label, this is no breezy cruise through the islands, musically or thematically.
Jurvanen conjures a deeply atmospheric meditation on many facets of romantic disillusion and breakup, an excursion that’s both haunted and haunting. Expanses of space here allow his poetic observations to reverberate, while his acoustic and electric guitar skills often evoke Neil Young at his most ragged (maybe it’s the Canadian thing). At other times, his Everyman voice channels Robert Plant at his most tender.
He also triggers echoes of Alex Chilton’s brand of R&B-soaked power pop, the desolation of early Cowboy Junkies (again, blame Canada) and with thoughtful lines such as “There’s joy in feeling sad / Now I know I hurt you so,” he makes a connection with the elemental spirit of Lucinda Williams.
Beyond the songs themselves, “Bar Chords” (released Feb. 7) is a gorgeous, full-bodied recording that revels in spare but intensely flavorful textures. It’s that delightfully rare kind of record that commands an instant replay.
— Randy Lewis
Photo of Bahamas, a.k.a. Afie Jurvanen. Credit: Dave Gillespie.