Last year, the world was won over by a relatively unknown, Canadian whose voice burned slowly over top of gospel melodies. Al Spx - better known as Cold Specks - was shrouded in mystery. Her melodies, while consuming at their best moments, were permitted liberties because of “the voice.”
While different in texture, tone and timbres, Basia Bulat’s voice is equally as powerful and as majestic a gift, but she was rarely afforded any of those same liberties. Her music left herself precious little room to hide. The image of Bulat clutching her autoharp tightly on stage was fitting, in both tenderness and the similarity to Linus and his trusted blanket. There was surprising security offered with each exhale, but just as much fragility. Instead of escaping from clouds of darkness or soaring along the healing power of spirits, Bulat’s vocals moved delicately over top of gentle picks and ran with folksy gallops. It’s easy to say Cold Specks hinted at the spiritual power of field songs while Bulat’s seemed more suited as hymnal backing for group prayer, but the end result was simple. Both women provided much needed salvation.
But when the first single from Tall Tall Shadow was released, the somewhat surprising - and very welcome - shift in production and choice in arrangements marked something wonderful. Bulat still writes delicate songs that will connect with her fans (“Paris or Amsterdam” might just have all the feelings), but her latest record is more modern and bold. This LP finds Bulat gracefully transforming from a folk artist that hopes to continue the legacy Joni started, to a pop artist that could potentially connect with much larger audiences.
When you hear her harmonize on “From Now On”, you can’t help but remember when Wilson Phillips owned the airwaves, but she consistently pushes the limiting boundaries of folk music. With an assist from Tim Kingsbury, Bulat experiments with poppier elements, new instrumentation and electronics. Bulat surges forward into the storm instead of trying to recover from the impact and repair damage. Bulat’s previous work left her exposed, a singularity for audience focus, but now she stands proudly as a front woman with confidence and charisma.
WEB:: Basia Bulat