One of the first things you notice hearing Canadian artist Afie Jurvanen, who uses the stage name Bahamas, is the complete absence of sonic distance between the singer and the listener.
And that's exactly the way he wants it for intimately rendered songs of broken love, love in renewal or the other dimensions of romantic relationships he explores so astutely on his 2009 debut, "Pink Strat," and through his just-released third album, "Bahamas Is Afie."
"You wouldn't yell these things at the top of your lungs — but you'd want to have that same kind of energy in a whisper," Jurvanen, 33, said while in Southern California for a guest spot on KCRW-FM's (89.9) "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and a performance at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.
"A friend once told me that when you sing you should assume you're laying next to a lover and whispering into their ear with their head next to you on a pillow," he said. "That's the way you'd get their attention."
Jurvanen, sporting a Dodgers baseball cap, spoke between bites of a club sandwich while seated a few feet from the rooftop pool of his West Hollywood hotel.
He would soon be off to another tour stop but returns to Los Angeles for an opening slot for Jack Johnson's second of two nights at the Greek Theatre on Thursday. (He returns for a headlining show Oct. 10 at the Roxy in West Hollywood.)
Although he scored some high-profile opening slots for Robert Plant and Wilco after "Pink Strat," and his 2012 album, "Barchords," gathered many critical plaudits, he says, "There's been no meteoric, overnight thing … I feel really lucky and flattered that people seemed to be digging it."
For "Bahamas Is Afie," Jurvanen has fleshed out the spare, live-in-the-studio atmosphere of his previous albums. He's added rhythmic loops and distortion effects on his typically economical guitar playing that amplify the emotions of the music.
"I wanted the new record to be sonically different, so I put more effort into the production on this one, to see what I could come up with — not in any Phil Spector wall-of-sound kind of way," he said. "But the majority of the time was spent on the songwriting.
"The main idea was one of getting to the point," he added. "To write songs that were more concise but which also have a more expansive sound."
The album's title arose from a couple of desires: to avoid confusion among new listeners ("It feels strange going out on solo shows and saying, 'Hi, I'm Bahamas' ") and because he thinks the songs and production hew closer to who he sees himself as an artist.
That plays out in "Bitter Memories," which carries a terse chorus about a broken relationship that concludes, "The memory of us, is sweeter than we really were/I wouldn't trade all those memories for you." When he reaches the end of that line, the gently rolling piano and folk guitar accompaniment are suddenly interrupted by droning, fuzzy guitar chords reminiscent of a Scottish pipe-and-drum unit before veering back to the piano and guitar work.
"Stronger Than That" has all the hallmarks of a hit single: catchy verses, a singalong chorus and an uplifting message that resists feeling cloying. "Little Record Girl" is a Mark Knopfler-ish country-rock shuffle of a love song that extols the way music so effortlessly worms its way into a fan's heart:
Fell in love with someone on a jacket sleeve
Found her in a pile of old LPs
And I counted the rings around her like a tree
As she spun around and round forever thirty-three
Several tracks ditch drums and other accouterments of the standard rock lineup in favor of musical touches he said are aimed at "tapping the energy of rock without the usual instruments."
"Those are the fun challenges of producing this record," he said. "I just hope the production is invisible, so the attention remains on the songs.
"In a lot of music today the production is at the forefront. I still like the songwriting and singing to do most of the heavy lifting."
Where: Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28
Cost: $60.70 to $81.15
Information: http://www.ticketmaster.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times