With the latest release of Earthtones from Toronto-based Bahamas (the incredible solo project of Afie Jurvanen), the emphasis is purely on ’70s R&B chill grooves. The beautifully-soulful production garners comparisons to D’Angelo, Al Green, and Jack Johnson in feel and overall mood. With carefully-chosen all-star guests such as James Gadson, Pino Palladino, and Felicity Williams, this album shines with great depth.
The album opens with tricked-out delayed guitar effects bouncing from left to right speakers, building anticipation for a possible beat drop or fat baseline. Instead, Afie busts in with soft, intelligently-sung lyrics to ease you into the track titled “Alone.” In fact, the fat beat holds off and keeps you hanging until the 2:26 mark nearing the end. The stellar guitar leads and gospel backing vocals keep the listener plenty engaged through the meat of the tune.
Following the superb intro, our ears are graced with “Opening Act,” a track where the words “Shooby Dooby Doo Wah” take centre stage with the female singers. The tune rolls out with a HEAVY ’70s groove and fantastic jazz guitar chording where the lyrics speak of career ups and downs and enduring long roads of empty shows all the way up to packed venues.
Possibly the best and most soulful track of the album comes with number three, “No Wrong.” Without over-explaining, it’s perfect. If this exquisite ballad were part of the Motown era, it would have made a ‘best of’ compilation without a doubt.
Things really pick up with the track “Show Me Naomi,” an upbeat, funky track that would bust a dance floor wide open. The tune once again highlights the ever-important female gospel vocals that permeate the album from start to finish. The stunning guitar grooves and leads show depth and maturity in Afie’s musicianship.
The heaviest and most standout tune of the album is titled “Bad Boys Need Love Too.” This mix of HEAVY funk and baritone rap vocals could be compared to the sounds of OutKast. The song’s potent combination of funk and heavy guitars gives it a unique sound that will have you humming the chorus for days.
A sweet, groovy track rolls over the speakers for the album’s eighth offering, titled “Everything to Everyone.” A tune with lyrics that I’m sure most of us can relate to, singing, “I can’t be everything to everyone, I don’t know why I always try to please everyone around me,” clearly lyrics from the heart of a man who I’m sure is overrun with demands as a father and touring musician.
“So Free” is a song that could have been plucked right out a D’Angelo album, and for good reason: James Gadson and Pino Palladino are a big part of D’Angelo’s rhythm section as session players. With tube-glowing bass lines and beautiful harmony vocals, it’s a perfect tune to set up the album’s three-song wind-down.
The album’s final cut, “Any Place,” is more of a lullaby where Afie throws down another Barry-White-style baritone, and sweeps you off your feet with tasteful jazz guitar.
Being somewhat of a newcomer to the music of Bahamas I have been completely blown away with Earthtones. Jurvanen’s immaculate songwriting is something of an extreme rarity in today’s music, and for new or seasoned fans of Bahamas, Earthtones is mandatory.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: BAHAMAS – EARTHTONES