Bahamas Credit: Scan By The Icon

The songs on the first three records Toronto singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen has made under the name Bahamas have slowly lodged themselves into my brain by stealth, thanks to his understated production, seductive melodies, and crafty arrangements. That’s changed with his new album Earthtones (Brushfire/Republic). It’s not that the tunes are any less catchy or the sound of the record less artful than its predecessors, but he’s frontloaded them with a more extroverted vocal presence and a slinky R&B vibe that’s previously only lurked deep in the background. Working with studio heavies Pino Palladino (bass) and James Gadson (drums), Jurvanen sounds like he’s channeling the spirit of vintage Hall & Oates but can’t shake his multivalent smarts. He deftly melds romance and sharp observations on contemporary mores on “Way With Words,” where he pleads, “Is there something you should get off your chest? / Don’t keep me waiting on some SMS.” On the love song “Opening Act (The Shooby Dooby Song)” he subtly embeds thoughts on his up-and-coming commercial status with the hesitations of a lover. The only misstep is “Bad Boys Need Love Too”—which is about neglected kids from broken families rather than self-indulgent lotharios—where he lays down a slow-motion funk groove, drops his voice into a husky baritone, and attempts some half-baked rapping. As with earlier Bahamas material, this recording has managed to get to me too.   v