Album Review: Basia Bulat—“Good Advice”

By Carey Roach

With Good Advice, Basia Bulat has gained a significant amount of sparkle. Even the album cover is a clear indication of this; adorned with sequins and sporting red lipstick, Bulat has obviously evolved past the Canadian indie-folk darling label she once held. The music is just as sparkly, too. Good Advice is very much rooted in pop territory, a place that was relatively unchartered on the singer-songwriter’s first three records.

Described as a break-up album in a major key, Good Advice is a lovely collection of catchy and upbeat pop songs. The album is decidedly more polished than any of its predecessors, possessing a glossy pop sheen that has not been heard before from the singer. Bulat’s trademark charango and autoharp have been exchanged for synths and electric guitars, and while initially somewhat unsettling, the change is mostly positive. The songs seem more lush and intricate than much of her earlier work, perhaps due to My Morning Jacket’s Jim James handling the record’s production.


Album art for Good Advice

Good Advice grapples with themes of heartbreak and sadness, but does so against a backdrop of glowing and optimistic instrumentals. It is an emotional record, but never risks feeling self-indulgent or self-pitying. It’s the sort of album to listen to when you’ve reached the stage of a break-up when you are ready to trade in your sweatpants for a party dress, and to search for life’s silver lining again. “La La Lie,” “Infamous,” and “Fool” are all proof of this, clearly prescribing to the idea that sometimes the pain can be danced away.

More than anything, Good Advice showcases Bulat’s versatility, as she blends genres more than ever before. Bulat explores blues, pop and gospel, proving that she is capable of so much more than just quirky folk.

Songs like “Good Advice” and “The Garden” posses bluesy tones, highlighting Bulat’s honey-tinged yet powerful voice. She also tries her hand at atmospheric dream pop for the first time on “Someday Soon,” which evokes potential comparisons to bands like Beach House or Braids. Despite this, Bulat never underestimates the power an acoustic guitar can have, mixing it masterfully with more electric elements to create a truly interesting sound.

Her folky roots have not, however, been completely abandoned. The songs also translate well to an acoustic setting, as a live album showcase at London’s Rough Trade East showed. It’s hard to resist smiling when watching or listening to Bulat, and the charming pop found on Good Advice makes this fact even more true.

All in all, Good Advice is perhaps the most uplifting break-up album I’ve encountered in the past few years. After being given the very niche description of being one of the most famous Polish-Canadians right now from The Evening Standard, Good Advice truly solidifies Basia Bulat’s place as an important rising talent in the Canadian music scene. (Secret City)


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