Good radio stations are still hugely important to me. In an age where we have unlimited control over the songs we hear, I think it’s more vital than ever that we let someone else pick the music for a while. A lot of the music I’ve discovered in the past few years has been because of my favorite radio stations, which expose me to sounds that I’m not likely to hear from any of my friends.
The problem is, there are very very few good radio stations. And by “good,” what I really mean is “independent.” Most radio stations are owned by media companies (that’s why there is inexplicably a KISS-FM in every major city), and corporate radio is the equivalent of going into a musical Burger King. It’s experience precisely engineered to be predictable, familiar, and souless. Corporate radio saps any spontaneity out of your experience, because marketing algorithms and not people are driving the vast majority of the music you hear. Like Burger King, they are profitable but junky.
So I was in a state of mourning when I moved to Connecticut, which I swiftly determined was deep in the thrall of corporate radio. That is until I heard WEHM, broadcasting out of Long Island, which has provided me not only with the thrill of hearing music I never hear on the classic rock station (Rolling Stones deep cuts! Bob Marley! Lyle Lovett!), but has also exposed me to new sounds like Bahama’s “Stronger Than That.”
The sonic palate and tempo are both reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard era, with lean Stratocasters, background vocals and something of the same sunny disposition. There’s even some similarities vocally, with singer Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas is his nom de rock) putting down an intimate, close-mic’d performance that sounds as if he’s singing while he does the dishes.
These sounds wrap around and embrace the listener, offering the same message of support that the lyrics do. “And I know you’re afraid of falling flat/and I know those walls are up against your back/and I know there are those who’d see you crack/but I know that you’re stronger than that.” It’s a message of belief, all the more sincere for its simplicity.
If there’s one thing I regret about the tune, it’s that it never quite delivers lyrically on the promise of its first two lines: “how in the hell does one heart swell/to the size of a beast with the bark of a big kick drum.” This couplet is immediately engaging, with great imagery and excellent rhythm (repeated h and s sounds, then repeated b and k sounds). A man who can write two lines like that is an artist I’m going to keep my ears on. So thanks, EHM and Bahamas, for making me feel just a little more at home.