Review of Basia Bulat's album Heart Of My Own released through Rough Trade
In the inimitable words of one Mr Jarvis Cocker 'Do you remember the first time?' Do you? The first time you heard Kate Bush sing 'Wuthering Heights', Sinead O'Connor sing 'Mandinka', Tracy Chapman sing 'Fast Car' or Liz Fraser sing .....anything? Extraordinary and unique vocalists are not as common as you may think, not the truly great and influential ones anyway. How many voices can make the hairs on your arm stand on end? Induce goose bumps? Send a shiver down your spine or stupefy you with their breadth, beauty and virtuosity.
Basia Bulat is an absolutely fantastic vocalist and formidable song writing talent. Try as I might I cannot aptly convey in mere words how tremendous this whole album is. Without wishing to be too gushing it is awesome, start to finish, all bits in-between, each note, expression, phrase, evocation or emotion. I don't think that I'm generally a selfish person but upon hearing Basia Bulat's album I have questioned as to whether I actually want to share it with anyone besides my family! Do you want a prize possession to enter the public domain, enter the mainstream, be misunderstood or misinterpreted, get thrown onto the playlist of 'Dumb It Down FM', end up on your Aunties I-Pod or NOW 98? How many Muse fans are just a little saddened by 'their' bands seemingly unstoppable rise into a global phenomenon? On reflection, and following advise once heeded from Conor Oberst that 'If you love something set it free', I have somewhat reluctantly decided to extol said virtues and let you in on a magnificent, shimmering and stunning masterpiece.
Basia Bulat is a 25 year old Canadian, born in Toronto and resident in London, Ontario. 'Heart Of My Own' is Basia's 2nd album following on from 2007's 'Oh My Darling'. To date she has kept a relatively low profile and come in under the radar as far as public consciousness is concerned, unless that is you have researched VW commercial backing tracks or taken a keen interest in Canadian female singer-songwriters.
'Heart Of My Own' fair skips along with a very Gaelic, almost Riverdance meets Braveheart percussive beat behind it. There are fiddles aplenty and a near military rhythm in many of the tracks. The instrumentation is subtle, effective and symbiotically complimentary. (Producer Howard Bilerman should be given credit for effectively letting this album breathe and for bringing the best out in the artist.) From the opening bars of 'Go On' it's difficult not to be drawn in and just enjoy and appreciate the whole very pleasurable experience. You'll be hard pressed not be toe tapping through this, and the albums teaser track, 'Gold Rush' (Now available for download). 'Run' is a slower piece with a beautiful soft vocal set against the backing of enchanting 'musical box' chimes and wintery sleigh bells. The title track, 'Heart Of My Own', showcases Basia brilliantly, an acoustic guitar, banjo, bass drum and fiddle giving it a country/folk lilt. Throughout the album a great deal of the appeal is derived from the vocal delivery. Basia's voice has a slight, and very beguiling, fragile quiver on some of the longer or higher notes, a quality which is charming and evocative. Some of her more emotional deliveries almost sound as if she were Debra Winger with her smoky, smouldering and husky tones. 'I'm Forgetting Everyone', a sparsely arranged, emotionally charged ballad maintains the heady heights attained on all but a few of the albums tracks. Reminiscent of a Sarabeth Tucek number it's a tale of a dissolving relationship..............
One day you told me your heart was full,
I wanted to know what the trouble was,
I loved your stories for what its worth,
spun them around me to watch them grow,
but you found a way to forget sometime ago that I was your waterfall,
when you say that you've been good, but you don't know where you were,
I'm forgetting every word, I'm forgetting everyone....
'The Shore' is as stripped back as any of the tracks, almost requiring you to pay more attention and wonder at the journey you're nearing the end of. Sparse and intense in equal measure, refocusing the listener for the final glorious chapter. 'Walk You Down' picks the beat back up and takes you cavorting carelessly and unashamedly onward. 'If It Rains' draws the album to a fitting conclusion...'I don't mind if it rains, you can leave your friends where you found them for your soul is still a mountain, you can tell them not to worry if it rains.......
Of the album Basia says 'I think it is at times sparse and, well, spacious with big choirs singing and then it gets really dense with really spirited and rolling drums.' I say that the album is a treat laden marvel and deserves to be heard, over and over and.....