Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow  [Album]
Secret City Records / CD
MP3 / V0 (VBR)
Tall Tall Shadow, the third album by Toronto singer-songwriter Basia Bulat, is the bravest album she has made. Raw and spectral, heartbroken, yet jubilant, these ten songs tell the story of a very hard year in the artist’s life and all the love that helped her through it.
Whereas the singer's past two LPs, including 2008's Polaris-nominated Oh, My Darling, were made in Montreal's all-analogue Hotel 2 Stango studio, Tall Tall Shadow is a more modern thing. This is a record with echo and reverb, electronic flutters and electric autoharp, voices that charge and incandesce around buzzing guitars, lonely piano and rattling percussion.
To get to this place, Bulat co-produced the album with, Tim Kingsbury and Mark Lawson. Kingsbury, a member of Arcade Fire, "can play anything and everything," she says. Lawson, who has worked on records with Akron/Family and Colin Stetson, and who won a Grammy for his work on Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, is a studio alchemist, someone who "hears things" hidden in songs, who is always keen to transform them.
They started recording in Toronto, at a reverberating 60-year-old dance hall. Once again, Bulat put together a band: her brother, the punk-inclined drummer Bobby Bulat; Holly Coish on keys and backing vocals; Kingsbury and Ben Whiteley on guitars and bass. One song features Whiteley's father, the folk legend Ken Whiteley, on gospel organ. But Tall Tall Shadow isn't acoustic folk music: like Beck's Sea Change or Buckingham Nicks, chord and strum are a launch-pad for wilder sounds.
Bulat's goal was to keep challenging herself. "Promise Not to Think About Love," with shimmying bass and dancing handclaps, is the poppiest track she has ever released. "It Can't Be You," played on an Andean charango, is one of the simplest. "Never Let Me Go" is all crescendo, a woman in a storm, and the title track reaches soaring for the sky: has there ever been a better showcase for Bulat's powerhouse voice? For her steam-train heart?
"Two months before I was due to begin recording, I suffered a deep loss," Bulat says. "I kind of started over." She started; and she didn't stop.
by Sean Michaels
Tall Tall Shadow
Promise Not to Think About Love
It Can't Be You
The City With No Rivers
Paris or Amsterdam
Never Let Me Go
From Now On