Basia Bulat: Good Advice | Virgin Media
Basia Bulat: Good Advice

Basia Bulat: Good AdviceRating: ★★★★☆ | by Ian Gittins

11/02/2016

Related

That august and vulnerable pop-music staple, the heartbreak album, comes in many shapes and sizes.

Grief-stricken artists can choose to mope and wallow in self-pity as did Chris Martin on the muted sigh of Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, in the wake of his conscious uncoupling from Gwyneth Paltrow. Or, like Björk on Vulnicura, they can shine a curious, questioning light on all aspects of the failed relationship.

Then there is Basia Bulat. The Canadian singer-songwriter has previously released three albums of smart folk-pop defined by her idiosyncratic playing of an autoharp. We can forget such gentle musings this time around. Good Advice is something else entirely.

In the wake of a painful break-up, Bulat raids torch-song soul, R&B, gospel and 60s girl-pop for this vivid, visceral album that chases its tail as it seeks to establish just what went wrong. Opening track La La Lie is the kind of gorgeously fragile retro-pop that Paloma Faith should be making, were she not such a try-hard foghorn.

Opening track La La Lie is the kind of gorgeously fragile retro-pop that Paloma Faith should be making

Long Goodbye, all tremulous organ, handclap rhythms and a voice that cuts like a knife through butter, is simply a terrific pop-soul song, giddy with loss and longing. Infamous is one-woman Shangri-Las pop that Phil Spector could mix to high heaven, were he not currently unfortunately otherwise occupied.

Bulat’s voice is vibrant yet vulnerable and sounds exactly like a damaged soul picking herself up and dusting herself down. She is not over him yet: the title track is country-tinged melancholy, while Fool – “I’m still your fool” – bemoans the fact that she can’t wash that man right out of her hair. Not quite yet.

She is best when she is upbeat, and there are one or two too many morose ballads in the second half of the record: The Garden veers dangerously near to self-pity. Yet the closing Someday Soon is the sound of a woman emerging bruised, battered yet unbowed from a long, dark night of the soul, ready to move on. In its own way, Good Advice is a quiet masterpiece.