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Basia Bulat - Good Advice (Review)

Basia Bulat, Good Advice

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CANADIAN folk singer Basia Bulat has pulled off a neat trick with her fourth album, Good Advice, by making one of the most bright and breezy break-up records in recent memory.

In order to do so, the singer-songwriter relocated from Montreal to Louisville in order to enlist the help of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James for production, thereby toning down her trademark autoharp in favour of a more vibrant form of pop. The results are bittersweet lyrically but frequently uplifting instrumentally.

That’s not to say Bulat has completely discarded her trademark elements. Certain songs still resonate with a stillness that brings her voice to the fore, while the folk background is still present and correct. But there’s a more technicolour sound going on here that only looks set to broaden her appeal beyond those Canadian borders.

And it’s also notable that the instruments used are incredibly diverse, ranging from trembling organ to loose drums and lightning-rod electric guitar.

Evidence of the contrast between breezy and melancholy was initially found in the singles thus far, with album standout Fool offering up a potent combination of razor-sharp melodies, upbeat organ and a chorus that bounces along despite proclaiming, somewhat despondently, “I’m still your fool”.

But it’s also evident from the opening track, La La Lie, which opens amid a bed of chiming organs and foot-stomping drum beats, before proclaiming “don’t look up, try not to see that I’m leaving”. The chorus, with its la la refrain, even has a hint of sing-along American pie to it.

In fact, the album gets off to a cracking, spirited start with second song Long Goodbye also making sure that you instantly take a lot of notice of what Bulat has to say. This fizzes along instrumentally, while offering up questioning, probing lyrics about the way things can often end so slowly [and painfully].

And yet, as previously mentioned, Bulat isn’t just about keeping things overtly pop. For while unquestionably broadening her sound to potentially attract a wider fan-base, she also delves into the former sound and enhances it with James’ production values.

The Garden, a song that immediately follows the summer breeze of Fool, finds Bulat stripping things right back, dropping in some brooding guitar and placing her lovelorn vocals to the fore and yet defiantly insisting that “I won’t look back”. It’s a stark contrast to the pop, perhaps more folk-driven, yet engagingly cinematic too, especially around the minute and 42 second mark where the instrumentals seem to flourish in an ethereal fashion.

And album closer Someday Soon maintains that widescreen approach, opening amid some atmospheric electronics and the kind of vocal harmonising that Sigur Ros would proudly lay claim to. It goes on to provide a hypnotic end to an album of so many highs.

Bulat’s transformation has to go down as a brilliant piece of work.

Download picks: La La Lie, Fool, Long Goodbye, Let Me In, The Garden, Someday Soon

Track listing:

  1. La La Lie
  2. Long Goodbye
  3. Let Me In
  4. In The Name Of
  5. Time
  6. Good Advice
  7. Infamous
  8. Fool
  9. The Garden
  10. Someday Soon