This Basia Bulat article was written by Gemma Parkes, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.
It only takes a quick glance at the album art for Basia Bulat’s fourth studio album, Good Advice, to sense the tonal shift between this and her previous works. Gone are the bleak colours and dreary exteriors, replaced with a vibrant, glitzy Basia wearing her trademark Mona Lisa-esque smile – a large hint towards what is a refreshingly upbeat and progressive record.
Produced by My Morning Jacket frontman and friend of the Canadian folk singer, Jim James, ‘Good Advice’ represents a transition away from Basia’s traditional folk sound. With influences drawn from James’ rock background -heavier drum beats, electric guitars, synth keys and more emphasis on bass – has allowed Basia to add an edge to her style of folk; she describes the record as having “…fireworks and heartbreak and a disco ball”.
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Opening track ‘La La Lie’ starts off with short sharp stabs of a violin which crash into Basia’s exquisite voice, a humming bass line and a sequence of prolonged organ chords. The song is upbeat, with a repetitive yet infectious chorus that is sure to stay in your head for days. Although the instrumental is cheerful, there is stark contrast between that and the lyrics of the song; “when I say that I don’t need help and I promise I will be fine/I la la la lie to myself”. It deals with the pain of masking emotions in the midst of heartbreak, ultimately leading to a path of self-destruction.
‘Long goodbye’ reinforces the extent of which Basia has evolved as an artist. The song packs a punch, with the explosive delivery of her vocal backed by a boisterous duo of percussion and bass – a twist on her earlier, more conventional folk style. The move from melancholic acoustic tracks to unapologetic, feisty folk-pop does well to add further dimensions to her artist identity. However, this heavier pop sound fails to create the same goosebump effect that comes from the simplicity of Basia’s heavenly vocal and an autoharp.
Lead single, ‘Infamous’, is the closest track to punchy pop perfection. Basia’s vocals soar across a trail of fuzzy synth chord progressions whilst a softly pounding drumbeat and a thumping bass line hum in the background. In her heartfelt vocal, Basia sings “Saw the pictures and all your darkest thoughts while you were waitin’, ready to brush me off” followed by “don’t waste my time pretending love is somewhere else”. Yet again the theme of heartbreak arises as her sincere lyrics delve deep into the pain of being in a relationship that’s in limbo, the frustration and anguish of not knowing where you stand.
Album closer, ‘Someday Soon’, begins with slow sways of ambience coupled with angelic “oohs”. Basia’s voice is much softer and soothing on this track, backed by faint whispers of guitar and drums – reverting back to her calm folk style whilst reminding us how her sound has diversified.
Having flirted with choirs and string sections in 2010’s Tall Tall Shadow, Basia has challenged her boundaries yet again with Good Advice. With James’ influence, this is a record that is brimming with confidence and a few potential pop hits, but, at times, feels beyond her comfort zone.
Good Advice will be released 16th February 2016 via Secret City Records.