Basia Bulat is a cult favourite who has gathered fans all over the world due to her autoharp playing and folk-tinged, deeply personal songs. When she unveiled ‘Fool’ on Soundcloud a few weeks ago, it was a surprise to many as she appeared to have gone into a more soulful and ‘60s-inspired place – and it was brilliant. A song you can return to over and over again without ever getting bored, it hinted at great things to come on ‘Good Advice’ – a break-up album produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.
Opening with a strong statement of defiance ‘I can keep up even though I won’t be right for weeks’, the album kicks off with ‘La La Lie’. With its gospel choir and Motown-esque production, the song also has a psychedelic edge as Basia sings about although how she is lying, can her former lover look her in the eye. She then offers some advice you think they’d do well to take: ‘Day and night, you need advice, don’t get caught up with me’. The pounding drums mark the beginning of ‘Long Goodbye’, a song with instrumentation that feels like it could have soundtracked a classic spy film. There was a recent interview where Basia mentioned that the more upbeat the music became, the darker she could delve into her lyrics and that is clearly captured in these 3 minutes and 48 seconds: ‘When I run, I’m running blind into the arms of your goodbye’.
‘Let Me In’ follows and seems to be more about the inevitable heartbreak and longing that comes with a break-up. She talks about standing by the door and pleading to be let in. The themes will be familiar to fans of Frightened Rabbit but the understated electronic moments could bring to mind a less harsh St. Vincent or Phoenix. Following this up with the contrasting ‘In the Name Of’ – a song about being prepared for a fresh start – is a clever move and the gospel choir backing brings real heart to it. Quite theatrical and with a timeless feel, the signature line of ‘I can’t keep living in the name of’ will capture the heart of any listener. Following this at the midway point of the record are two slow-burners that give Basia’s incredible voice the chance to shine. In ‘Time’ she sings: ‘Calling out to me when I’m sleeping, can you reach out to me when I need it?’; an absolutely devastating line about wanting to patch things up, while title track ‘Good Advice’ is a more soulful piece with a cutting line in self-depreciation: ‘When I hear our good advice, I’m starting something… I keep running from it’.
‘Infamous’ finds Basia in bullish mood and the music matches this, feeling far more intense than any other song on the album. She seethes: ‘Stop wasting time pretending love is somewhere else’ and you can hear the emotion pouring out of her voice. As the record runs into its last three songs, you’ll get to enjoy the shiny pop elements of ‘Fool’ before it closes with ‘The Garden’ – a filmic soundtrack-esque slice of dreamy indie – and ‘Someday Soon’. It’s this closing song that will give you goosebumps. A cross between The National and Bat for Lashes, it’s not as melodic as what has come before but it is so powerful and atmospheric: ‘Night still overcast, this love cannot last’.
Full of heartbreak, emotion and optimism, Basia Bulat has created a deeply personal album here that shows how the worst times can be used for something positive. The only ‘Good Advice’ we can give is to listen to it as soon as possible.