By Andrea WarnerIn the space of four years, Afie Jurvanen has gone from a part of Feist's backing band to a solo star of his own as alt-country folk rocker Bahamas. His 2009 debut, Pink Strat, was a richly textured examination of a romantic relationship seemingly staggering towards its end. His follow-up, Barchords, comes on the other side of love's slow death, and brings with it the kind of aching sadness, lingering anger and objective clarity that only comes well after you've given back the other person's stuff.
The new LP arrives Tuesday (February 7) on Universal Republic in Canada, and all week you can stream the album here in Exclaim!'s Click Hear section.
Speaking to Exclaim!, Jurvanen says of Barchords, "I was struggling with something that was on and off and on and off for a long time, and it was something that was wonderful and amazing, but it was also something very difficult and painful. It was one of those things that just took forever to process, you know? Both of my records kind of chronicle this period of my life. So, yeah, it's a breakup album. All of my albums have been breakup albums."
And everyone loves a great breakup album. While touring in support of Pink Strat, Jurvanen earned the support of a slew of famous fans-turned-friends, such as Elvis Costello, as well as the attention of American label, Brushfire Records. The company re-released Pink Strat in the U.S., which delayed Barchords' release by a full year.
"In a way it's kind of strange now, it's going to go out into the world and have a life of its own and people are going to react to it," Jurvanen says. "For so long it was just something on a spool of tape and on a computer and every now and then I'd listen to it again to make sure I didn't hate it!"
Admittedly, Barchords is a vastly different landscape than its predecessor, but it's quite a natural evolution. Everything, from lyrics to influences to production, feels more complex. Melancholy haunts every song, from the sad cabaret of "Montreal" to the ironically titled "Overjoyed." Even the most upbeat, triumphant moments, such as the gospel-tinged "Never Again" and "I Got You Babe" are rooted in loss. When Jurvanen sings, "Do I hold you back in all the ways I lack?" it's another standout moment of heartbreaking self-awareness.
"Making it personal has been my foundation for writing songs since I began," he says. "I've made forays into more storytelling or conjuring things or exaggerating things but they're not the songs that resonate."
With the album's release date just around the corner, Jurvanen has been familiarizing himself again with these songs that catalogue his heartbreak. Thankfully, time and circumstance have him firmly separated from dwelling too deeply in the past.
"My domestic situation is much healthier," he laughs. "Personally, I'm in a much better place. And even musically, I don't know if confident is the right word, but I just feel comfortable. I feel comfortable singing, and I think when you're younger you spend a lot of time trying to find your voice as a writer, a singer, a performer, but in the last few years we've just done so much touring, it's really nice to get to a point where you can just play and stand behind your songs and stand next to them as something you've created and something that's a part of you. That's a nice feeling right now, to be starting a new record that way."
To hear those results, simply click here. And to read more of Exclaim!'s interview with Bahamas, head here. Plus catch him on Exclaim! TV here.