Singer/songwriter Basia Bulat hasn’t garnered nearly enough notice on this side of our northern border, but it’s not because she’s not deserving. In her native Canada, the multi-instrumentalist (who’s known for playing the autoharp, dulcimer, charango and more) has gained significant airplay and even had her debut album, Oh My Darling, shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize. Tall Tall Shadow, her third effort (and first to be accorded Stateside) was also considered for that particular prize and nominated for a Juno Award, as well. Though she possesses a voice best suited for a forlorn folkie—part Kate Bush and part Sandy Denny—Bulat is as far from a willowy troubadour as Miley Cyrus is from any hint of modesty. Her deceptively delicate entreaties often give way to boisterous rhythms, an obvious reflection of bold, perhaps even brash, confidence.
Still, despite occasional kudos from a few knowing critics and an extensive touring schedule that’s taken her as far afield as Australia, Bulat has yet to make the kind of inroads her easily engaging songs would seem to call for. That’s a shame, because Bulat has an ear for winsome melodies that would otherwise attract a fan following if radio were to offer some meaningful exposure.
That fact’s borne out by her new effort, the tellingly titled Good Advice. More than ever before, it finds Bulat in a particularly playful mood, mostly eschewing the introspective approach that typified her earlier efforts. Songs such as “La La Lie,” “The Garden” and “Long Goodbye” are playful to the point of pure effusiveness, each one swathed with catchy choruses and brisk, bubbly refrains. “Let Me In” is entreating enough to convince listeners to heed its title. On the other hand, the earnest intent of “Fool” belies its handle entirely.
Producer Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) maximizes these percolating tempos and uses them to caress Bulat’s undulating melodies, slowly building each song with soaring crescendos. The effect is genuinely hypnotic, and while some songs offer an instant rush, all ultimately resonate through a similarly glowing effect. Whether the results provide Bulat with her big breakthrough in America remains to be seen, but suffice it to say this Good Advice is indeed well worth heeding.