Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
Artist: Basia Bulat
Title: Heart of My Own
Release date: January 26, 2010
Label: Rough Trade
Let's hear it for the Canadians. Yesterday, it was Montreal metal band Priestess. Today, it's London, Ontario singer-songwriter Basia Bulat. Stylistically, these acts couldn't be further apart on the musical spectrum, but they do have one big thing in common: They're both incredibly earnest. It must be something in all the acid rain we dump on our friends to the north. Canadians are painfully sober when it comes to popular music. From Neil Young to Joni Mitchell to Chilliwack to Bryan Adams to Anne Murray to Rush to Triumph to D.O.A. to that "Isn't it ironic?" singer to a whole bunch of others I don't have the wherewithal to list, Canadian musicians are a serious lot (Paul Shaffer notwithstanding).
Speaking of Joni Mitchell . . . I guess Basia Bulat is cut from the same cloth. Folky tunes, introspective lyrics, a sense of urgency in her delivery, and a pretty but challenging voice. That voice is surely what sets her apart from her singer-songwriter contemporaries because the songs themselves don't instantly grab you (unlike, say, those of another "Nothing Not New" entrant, Laura Veirs
). Her clear alto is graced with a fast vibrato that is likely to reel you in immediately or leave you thinking, "Hmm. A little of this goes a long way." I guess I'm in the latter camp.
One of the better songs is "Sugar and Spice," in which Bulat accepts her fate in a relationship she knows may be the best for her: "I looked to the sky and I saw the sun turning to us / I looked for the road but all I could see was dust / I remember your voice when you said it was better for us / Oh, how I've done myself in."
Bulat plucks away at various non-traditional stringed instruments such ukelele, autoharp, and hammered dulcimer to help bring some of these songs to life.
If folky singer-songwriters are your thing, I think you could do a lot worse than Basia Bulat. Are you a fan? What do you think of this new record? Drop a comment in the space below.
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