Basia Bulat can’t remember exactly when she started taking herself seriously. But at some point (“Maybe three or four years ago?” she figures. “No, three? Three and a half?”), the 24-year-old Ontarian went from being “that girl with the guitar outside, playing the Ghostbusters theme song,” to that girl laying down tracks with Howard Bilerman at his Hotel 2 Tango studio, to that girl with the Rough Trade debut album. Oh, My Darling is a collection of songs Bulat penned in her teens and early 20s and recorded in spurts over the last few years. It’s a spry, wistful jaunt through late adolescence, and—though green—her backwoodsy chamber pop boasts dazzling potential. For that reason and the following, we’re happy to wait three, four or however many years ’til the promise pays off in full.
She’s an indiscriminate instrumentalist.
After cutting her teeth on the ivories, Bulat arrived at her current mainstays—guitar and autoharp—via upright bass and saxophone. And then came the ukelin. “It doesn’t look like a ukulele or a violin, but they claim it’s a cross,” she says. “I find all these misfit instruments at garage sales or on eBay that no one else can play or wants to play. And I can’t play them either, but they look really cool.”
She’s bilingual and whimsical.
Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, Bulat was transfixed by the dancing skeletons (les squelettes) featured on Telefrançais, a TV show (hosted by a talking pineapple, l’ananas) aimed at teaching French to Canadian kids. She pays tribute to the boogieing bones in her music video for “In the Night,” one of Darling’s standout tracks.
She’s folk and anti-folk.
Though Bulat cites acts like the Carter Family and the folkways tunes collected by bohemian archivist Harry Smith as major influences, she’s no traditionalist. “We did this showcase with Jeffrey Lewis, which was really fun because he’s amazing,” she enthuses. “Herman Dune and all those guys—I’m kind of in love with that. Kimya Dawson has been one of my favorites for years.”
She’s well-versed in, well, verse.
While studying English literature at the University of Western Ontario, she became enamored with the works of American poets like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman—the latter of whom she particularly admires for his lifelong obsession with revising his pseudo-autobiographical masterpiece Leaves of Grass. Hopefully, she’ll remain similarly unsatisfied.
Album: Oh, My Darling
For fans of: Feist, Jenny Lewis, Neutral Milk Hotel