Basia Bulat

Heart Of My Own
February 16, 2010

Heart of My Own is the sophomore album from this young, and judging by her artwork, cute as heck Canadian songstress. On first listen, the sound struck reminiscent chords akin to Australians The Audreys as far as crisp femme vocals and country inspired instrumentals are concerned, although Bulat takes this a step further on her album with an omnibus of strings, banjo, heavy use of snare drum, keys, and pretty much every folk-associated instrument under the sun.

Bulat’s upbeat tempos and dancing melodies add a sense of optimism to her otherwise sombre arrangements and subject content. Singing the blues with a smile on her face, she effortlessly glides through stylistic tonal licks that Shakira would be proud of, but perhaps without the hip shaking.

Grandiose orchestral arrangements are plentiful on Heart of My Own, shifting away nicely from the ‘country’ echelons the album would otherwise be placed in. Perhaps this was the mark of producer Howard Bilerman, who, if his previous work with Arcade Fire is anything to go by, digs his intricate strings and woodwinds.

Whilst it’s a good theory, in practice this multi-instrumental mesh can sometimes go horribly wrong. Good songs have the potential to be dragged down by excessive instrumentation. In this case, about 70% of the album’s content could benefit from the firm whack of a simplicity stick. Track six, the beautifully delicate and intriguing ‘Sparrow’, with its straightforward ukulele accompaniment, illustrates this nicely, leaving room to enjoy the vocals and exquisite lyrical splendour. But, true to form, as soon as I started to get into the tune, thinking perhaps this album does have something more to offer, track seven kicks in, with its unmistakably country timbre, overpowering instrumental arrangements, offensive horns and downright annoying attitude. Note: sometimes less is much, much more.

There’s no doubt that Basia Bulat is one talented lady, with an incredible voice and some solid musos behind her. Whether or not this mix will translate well to a wider audience is debatable. With a record that, to me, sounds slightly overcooked, I think this is one artist I’d like to see live before deciding whether or not I like her.