Tuesday, January 26, 2010
When Basia Bulat stumbled onto the scene a few years back, you couldn't help but fall in love her. Oh My Darling was the type of record you felt lucky to hear and instantly, Basia became one of the artists you wanted to do well. You wanted everyone to hear her sing, soak in her surprising confidence that balanced her quiet persona and ability to make you feel as she delivered her most tender of moments.
Thankfully, Oh My Darling got heard - and nominated for the Polaris - and that success has given Basia the time to grow as an artist and deliver a sophomore LP that exceeds even her amazing potential. Looking back, much like Zach from Rogue Wave, when you listen to her debut album you sometimes get the feel that even the biggest arrangements she put together grew from the most humble of beginnings; visions in her head that a studio band could play with if ever given the chance.
As Heart of My Own explodes out of the gate with the surging power of Go On, you see that Basia and her band are now a single, cohesive entity. The clacking rim shots, marching drum snare and deep hollow bass drum build a tension behind her voice that flows perfectly into collage of strings. It's not often you think of a folk artist that hooks you with an opening track, unless it's one of those 8-minute epic tales that details the human condition, but Basia manages to show she's still as talented as we remember, but she's stronger, more experienced and more willing to push her boundaries. Run is another perfect representation of her new sound. In theory, the song could have fit nicely amongst the tracks from her last record, but every note, every harmony, every idea seems to move in perfect step. Subtle flourishes chime in and out without distracting you, as if the band is one step ahead of you, knowing what you want next before you do.
Heart of My Own was born on the road, but more importantly, even as it grew from Basia's soul, it could have grown for ours. She embraces the happiness we feel amongst our friends as we share drinks and laughs, but understands life is hard and being alone is something that not only happens, sometimes is needed. She invigorates the listen (and the listener) with at just the right times - the uptempo, horn filled romp If Only You, a track so infectious you can't do anything but listen intently wishing it would run for about five more minutes - but also lets you retreat with personal, moving songs like The Shore. She still presents tender thoughts - Sugar and Spice is beautiful and the playful notes of Sparrow just exude the playfulness she can deliver so effortlessly - but even the gentlest of songs have a density.
Too much importance is put on that dreaded second record, but not only has Basia cleared that hurdle with Edwin Moses like precision, she shows that she will be an artist judged by a catalog not a single record. She shows she can write songs that will stand the test of time (If It Rains), and start speaking for everyone not just the young Toronto-based singer. Even with how much I loved her first effort, I don't think even I expected her to reach that level so quickly.
Hali readers, don't forget Basia is going to be playing with Owen Pallett on Feb. 10th @ St. Matthew's Church. I can't think of a better venue to hear her belt out the spiritual Hush, so I'd move fast and get your tickets now.