Thursday, March 29, 2012

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: BAHAMAS - BARCHORDS

The Bahamas album is like a buffet with some of the best food around, where you grab a little of this, a little of that, and it all mixes great on the plate.  Afie Jurvanen has been a guitar player for hire, with Feist, Great Lake Swimmers and others, and you can hear lots of influences.  There's Feist in her softer, sparer, love song mode.  There's Ron Sexsmith's laconic vocal style, and precise lyrics.  There's Lanois's echo and atmosphere.  There's even latter-period Beatles dramatic simplicity (think Don't Bring Me Down).

All good stuff.  Best though, is how smooth it goes down, how simple and elegant it is, and how strong the songs are.  Each one has an easy gentleness, along with moments that soar, plus grand and soothing melodies.  I wouldn't call these numbers stripped-down, as they all feature guitar, bass, drums and lots of vocals, but there is lots of space, and nothing unnecessary.  The three instruments, especially Jurvanen's guitar, give us everything we need.  This certainly lets the glow of his voice come through, and the notes ring out.  Just the right amount of knob-twiddling gives so much punch and presence.  OK Alright I'm Alive features plunked bass, cymbals taps and guitar chunks in the sparest way possible, but still stays bouncy and funky.

He even manages to make noise sounds pretty.  On the track Never Again, a one-note guitar line becomes fast, distorted, and loud, but still seems to be coming from a wispy cloud rather than a thunder storm.  All this sonic ability serves the words so well, as hushed intimacies and admissions become monumental.  Plus, Jurvanen is a super crooner.  I'd call it ear candy, but the compositions and lyrics are so strong, that's too flippant for this quality disc.

14 comments:

  1. I agree, Bob. Stellar album. Re: the Beatles reference, I think you mean "Don't Let Me Down"; "Don't Bring Me Down (Bruce)" is ELO, which is the new Zeus record. Coincidentally, they all played together (Afie and Zeus, that is) in the band Paso Mino.

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