Review of Good Advice Album by Basia Bulat

The arrival of a new album from Basia Bulat is always something to look forward to. Some years ago now I was immediately gripped by Basia's voice when I heard the utterly brilliant 'Go On' (From 'Heart Of My Own') When you hear Basia sing you can't help but to be captivated. Her vocal is so unique and so enthralling. It has a rasp, a rattle even, an odd tickle that is almost asthmatic, a shortness of breath that is sometimes scared, sometimes fearful but always emotive. Her voice has a rough lining that has such a beautiful quiver and beguiling vibration; she can at times sound like she's singing popping candy but in the most enigmatic and bewitching way.

Basia Bulat Good Advice Album

To try and describe her voice, however hard I try, never quite does justice to such a wonderful instrument. Couple that with her proven ability as a song writer and her incredible musicianship and you begin to wonder why she isn't better known in public's consciousness. (I'm quite happy that she's a bit of a well-kept secret.....but she does deserve to be heard a hell of a lot more)

'Good Advice' is the fourth album from Ontarian Basia Bulat. Following on from 2013's Juno nominated, 'Tall, Tall Shadows', and 2010's breakthrough album, 'Heart Of My Own', 'Good Advice' captures the trauma and torment of a particularly painful break up. Basia reflects with brutal honesty about her failed relationship, how she has been left, how deeply affected she has been and just how devastated and let down she feels.

This time around Bulat has teamed up with My Morning Jacket's Jim James. Over the course of three visits, driving nine hours ("in her Moms car") down to Kentucky to pour her heart out and put to tape her still raw emotions, Basia recorded 'Good Advice'. Whilst there has been a deliberate effort to make more of a pop record than her more folksie sounding predecessors the core elements of a Basia Bulat album are still retained and the more polished sound does not detract from her performance.

'La, La, Lie', the albums opening track show's Basia has her heart firming on her sleeve. Honest, unflinching and resolute, the song tells it as it is with Basia betrayed but determined. The title track is more of a sombre affair; a time to reflect. In one of her more contemplative moments Basia softly sings as she tries to come to terms with what's going on around her.   

The song that set the platform for the album, 'Infamous', has lost none of its bite or brilliance. Basia sounds at times fragile and hurt and at others reasoned and resolved. "Come back or not but call it off' Come back alone or turn me down, Don't waste my time pretending love is somewhere else" Basia sings as she shares her anguish. Where this song may have set the theme, others such as the devastatingly tragic ballad, 'Time', take it to new heights. Basia's most emotive and engaging vocal performance on the ten track album is a mesmeric wonder.

The more upbeat, but ultimate self blame, of 'Long Goodnight' helps Basia shed, like a cathartic release, her emotional baggage as she builds from a new brittle beginning. 'In The Name Of', shows still further her need for expression, her need to impart her feelings and her ability to get past, and work through, her very personal relationship breakdown. The power in Basia's delivery here is so well caught; it's raw and emotive, heart felt and real, a state of mind so effectively put to song that you feel like you're living through the drama and deconstruction of it all yourself. The close out track, 'Someday Soon', is similarly emotive, however, it perfectly draws the album to an end, framing what's gone before with a sense of resignation and regret.    

Elsewhere on 'Good Advice' there are the lighter, poppier, flashes that are a newer avenue for Basia Bulat. 'Let Me In' and 'Fool' break new ground for Basia Bulat and deliver up a slightly more commercial slant to Basia's work. This production of her work here is the only question mark I have over the entire album; it's not for me the best place to set such a genuinely unique vocal. I like to hear her voice in its most exposed form, with all its idiosyncrasies and delightful nuances bubbling away in the foreground. (Pity I'm not a renowned producer really.... )

Production differences aside, 'Good Advice' remains a great album, capturing a very emotional time in Basia Bulat life. It's not gushing, it's not twee and it's certainly not mawkish. It's real, at times brutally honest, extraordinarily emotive and definitely worth listening to. 

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