Earthtones, the fourth studio album from Bahamas is beautifully familiar, but new enough to engage fully with the tales of luckless love and the struggles of everyday life.
In a hand-written letter to fans ahead of the release, lead singer Afie Jurvanen has said this is Bahamas’ best album yet, and we see little to refuse that opinion.
As Earthtones opens with Alone, we are immediately reconnected with the heart-breaking voice of Jurvanen, who also wrote this album came after heavy depression and a lack of direction following a decade of writing and touring.
In this album opener, soft rapping shows a hint of these new influences as …. ‘men and women are equal, but we’re not the same’.
Next up, Opening Act has us immediately back amid the gentle tones that typify Bahamas. The one thing that Bahamas do time and time again, is create music that has a tantalisingly chilled edge whilst still making you want to boogie. No Wrong is the epitome of this: a masterclass in relaxation without being a lesson in sleeping.
Show Me Naomi ushers in the funkiest melody on the album, and is followed by the best track of the bunch – No Expectations.
Looped vocals create a unique opening to what is a wonderfully honest song. It has been a long time since we felt lyrics resonate so deeply. In a time where social media rules all, we look constantly for attention, and look outward to others, rather than concentrate on our own lives.
Looking at other people’s lives means that high expectations are set, often resulting in disappointment. Here, Bahamas put it simply ‘with no explanation, life can be sweet, have no expectations’.
This mantra echoes in our programmed consumption of music. We automatically try to work out the pattern of the song.
Here, each verse is sandwiched by varying guitar styles: heavy and reverbed riffs, to country twangs. We are not allowed to anticipate. Have no expectations going into music, is the lesson. With Bahamas, you will be rewarded sufficiently.
Way With Words is a steady yet relentless track. The repetitive riff stays fresh and avoids being intrusive.
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Bad Boys Need Love Too is defined by addictive slow beats and bass. The song again hints at a hip-hop influence but with the smoothness of Bahamas, aided by the backing vocals of long-time collaborator, Felicity Williams.
Everything to Everyone has a wonderfully bubbling riff that leads us to So Free. This is the longest track on the album, and stands as an amalgamation of the sounds found throughout the album and a summarisation of all of Jurvanen’s emotions.
No Depression is the most open insight into the inspiration behind this album. ‘Give the doctor a description, he just gives me a prescription’ is the line that explains Jurvanen using the organic healing of writing to recover his zest for life, rather than through medication.
The album ends on Any Place, the most soulful song – filled with the gravelly influence of Otis Redding and the excellence of Need Your Love So Bad by Fleetwood Mac.
Earthtones is an album that is a snapshot of Jurvanen’s mind and his emotions of the past couple of years. What is more, it is an extremely relatable snapshot.
To be able to simplify life’s challenges yet truly capture their essence, is a magnificent thing. As Jurvanen says, it is time to feel “joie de vivre”…..feel it here.
Bahamas are currently on a huge tour in Canada, followed by dates in Europe, finishing in the US in May.
‘Earthtones’ is out now, via Barchords Inc