If there is one theme that has flowed through Bahamas‘ ever-changing discography it would be lyrical melancholy. Through the Toronto native’s start as an indie folk artist, to his recent shift towards a more roots and funk-oriented sound, Afie Jurvanen’s knack for writing witty, heartbreakingly honest songs has always been at the centre of his music. Sad Hunk is no different.
The album, which finds Jurvanen alongside his usual collaborators (Don Kerr, Mike O’Brien, Christine Bougie, and Felicity Williams), follows in the musical footsteps of his Juno Award winning Earthtones. Opting once again for a more funk driven and upbeat R&B feel, the musical atmosphere of the album juxtaposes Jurvanen’s forthright and sometimes sad lyrics.
The opening track, ‘Trick To Happy‘, which features lyrics that ask questions like “Is there some trick to being happy?” and “Is there a price for doing well?”, sets the tone for many of the tracks to follow. Jurvanen speaks candidly about his feelings towards music and his life as a whole. From here, the album expands on topics such as love (‘Less Than Love‘ and ‘Half Your Love‘), as well as personal-acceptance and acknowledgement of change (‘Own Alone‘ and ‘Not Cool Anymore‘).
While most of Sad Hunk does an excellent job of walking the line between being upbeat and melancholic, both uncertain and confident, a couple tracks fall flat. While ‘Done Did Me No Good‘ has a catchy groove, neither the lyrical nor instrumental content is appealing enough to draw and hold attention. Leaving the track ungrounded throughout the album. Similarly, ‘Can’t Complain‘, an anti-brag song about Jurvanen’s gratitude towards his musical success, feels out of place between the more serious and candid ‘Not Cool Anymore’ and ‘Fair Share.’
The album concludes strongly with the tracks ‘Fair Share’ and ‘Wisdom Of The World.’ These two songs feature some of the best production and musical ideas on the LP, with “Fair Share” creatively using waves of electric guitars to create a harp-like crescendo that builds into the chorus.
‘Wisdom Of The World’ closes the album off on a high note that’s fittingly self-reflective of Bahamas’ musical journey thus far. The track follows a cool progression that starts off with a funky but sparse baseline that forces listeners to focus on some of Jurvanen’s most personal lyrics. From here, the song slowly builds to the climax around halfway through the track featuring a loud and heavy guitar solo a la 2014’s Bahamas is Afie.
Then, as the album enters its final minute, it switches again to a much softer acoustic finale that feels more like an excerpt from Jurvanen’s debut, Pink Strat. The song is a journey backwards in time through Bahamas’ discography, and given Sad Hunk’s self-reflective lyrical, it is a powerful and appropriate conclusion.
While Sad Hunk may lack some of the more witty and poetic lyrics of Bahamas’ earlier works, it’s much more personal and intimate than any of his previous albums. Jurvanen’s ability to write meaningful and despondent lyrics that suit even the most upbeat of guitar riffs is ever-present. And while the album feels a little less varied and consistent than Earthtones, it’s still an emotional listen for new and longtime fans alike.