Album Review: “Sad Hunk” delivers insightful lyrics and emotional contemplation
(Courtesy of Brushfire Records)
Released Oct. 9
By Vivian Xu
Oct. 9, 2020 7:07 p.m.
Hunks have feelings too.
While folk musician Bahamas may come off as a rugged outdoorsman, his new album “Sad Hunk” unveils the volatile emotions of a self-proclaimed hunk. The 31-minute album delves into refreshingly uncharted territory for the artist as he meanders through thoughtful contemplations about the pointless rat race of life and other personal vulnerabilities.
But this shift in lyrical content towards his own emotions is not accompanied by a broader sonic adjustment. Instead, Bahamas inches towards bare-bones instrumentals while embodying his signature folksy sound. Thankfully his ventures into new lyrical territory help mitigate the sonic mundanity of the album, making it perhaps his most emotionally raw release so far.
Opening with standout track “Trick to Be Happy,” Bahamas eases listeners into the record with a crooning bassline while he surprisingly launches into a series of rhetorical questions. His lyrics read like a diary entry, and the relaxed guitar strumming complements his intimate line of questioning as he contemplates “Is there a price for doing well? / Should I feel bad ‘cause I can’t tell?” However, there isn’t a single answer to any of the questions he poses, cleverly leaving the door open for the listener to find out for themselves as they progress through the album.
And while the first track establishes that Bahamas is on a journey to happiness, the next song “Own Alone” clarifies that he’s on this path by himself. But Bahamas’ choice to introduce a rapid tempo and bouncy instrumentals cheerfully signal that he is owning his solitary state rather than sulking in it. The song is the first of many on the album that underscores the cerebral nature of the release, as the artist looks inward to reflect outward.
Yet not all of Bahamas’ reflecting is tranquil, as he is quick to denounce money as a means to gain happiness in “Up With The Jones.” The spirited plucking of twangy strings is an almost comical pairing to his scathing commentary about keeping up in the rat race, covering everything from student loans to upgrading phones. And though such critique can easily be perceived as elitist, Bahamas successfully avoids the trope by admitting that he, too, had once been occupied with material achievements.
It seems that his wisdom comes with age, as the following track “Not Cool Anymore” jokingly laments about Bahamas’ veteran status in the music industry. Luckily, the light drumbeats and delicate guitar interludes indicate that Bahamas isn’t terribly distraught about pushing 40, commenting that he’s “still a lion but (he) lost (his) roar.” His lighthearted jokes are a sharp contrast from the previous track’s tirade and could make for a whiplash-inducing moment if not for the consistency in both tracks’ sprightly sound.
And unlike any other song on the album, the concluding track “Wisdom Of The World” embodies a pensive and brooding tone that closes the door left open by the first track. While bitter distaste and clipped string plucking characterize the song’s opening, Bahamas eventually has a timely change of heart as the instrumentals soften. Finally, he remarks, “I guess the whole thing’s about forgiveness,” and drops the curtain on his self-reflection.
Bahamas has certainly come a long way lyrically since his first few studio albums, which revolve largely around themes of love. Yet even with his newfound wisdom, the release doesn’t seem to pack a punch – which can easily be attributed to the lack of the bold electric guitar and heavy production that are characteristic of his previous releases.
But perhaps the album doesn’t need that extra dose of spunk because what makes “Sad Hunk” a standout record is Bahamas’ insightful lyricism and endearing humbleness. The release’s candid introspection is a welcome change and its languid transitions between tracks pair well with the similarly relaxed shifts in their subject matter, effortlessly weaving from aging to loneliness.
This hunk may be sad, but at least he isn’t afraid to show it.