If you expect a guy called Bahamas to make laid-back, tropical music, you’d be half-right. On Barchords, Bahamas (or Afie Jurvanen, as his mamma calls him) crafts a collection of light, sometimes even breezy tracks infused with blues (“Lost in the Light”), pop (“Your Sweet Touch”) and country (“Any Other Way”). Oddly, one of the most notable things about Barchords is how much silence it contains. In an effort to create space for the songs’ sentiments, Jurvanen has taken quite the stripped-down approach to instrumentation, favoring vocals high in the mix and at times leaving long moments of silence between his phrases. While this minimalist approach works well on songs like the slightly psychy “Never Again,” it leaves others (“Montreal,” “Overjoyed”) feeling more like sketches than fully realized sonic ideas, and the fact that they’re largely delivered in a half-whispered mid-tempo whimper makes them difficult to distinguish from one another.
That said, Jurvanen’s restraint can be winning when it’s not taken too far. On album highlight “Lost in the Light,” he does a dead ringer for Bill Callahan’s lovely baritone over the delicate “ooh’s” of a choir. Here and elsewhere on the record, Jurvanen shows himself capable of crafting winsome tunes when he has the courage of his conviction. Perhaps rather than giving his songs so much space to grow, he should simply grow into his songs.