On 2016’s Good Advice, Basia Bulat acts as her own best friend, dispensing wisdom in winsome pop nuggets meant to manage her own relationship woes.
My momma is a font of wisdom. Not all of it is welcomed or invited, but she often invokes her maternal right to say what’s on her mind regardless of my openness to hearing it. Like any counsel that comes from external sources, it’s not always easy to tell what to take with a grain of salt or a spoonful of sugar. That said, I usually find that the hardest advice to swallow is my own, whether it comes as a kick-to-the-gut instinctual reaction or wisdom garnered over time.
On her aptly titled, 2016 album Good Advice, Basia Bulat acts as her own best friend, dispensing wisdom in winsome pop nuggets meant to manage her own relationship woes. Born of a broken heart, Good Advice is an album Bulat says she had to record, in a manner that forced her to take risks in a way previous albums hadn’t. In an interview around the time of its release, Bulat said being in new studio surroundings (Louisville, Kentucky) and working with unfamiliar collaborators (Jim James of My Morning Jacket) put her in a vulnerable frame of mind, one where she was willing to take risks with her work. “You can’t make anything good if you’re safe. You might embarrass yourself, but the rewards are huge.”
As if willing herself to look on the bright side of things, the deeper Bulat seems to get lyrically, the more unrestrained and uplifting her musical arrangements get. Opener “La La Lie” buoyantly carries Good Advice on a wave of bubbly choruses and full band arrangements. “In the Name Of,” “Fool,” and the peerless “Infamous” follow suit, all playfully executed pop songs that bristle with the raw emotions of Bulat’s best lyrics ever. She bears her soul and wears her heart prominently on the outside on contemplative ballads “Time” and the beautifully arranged closer “Someday Soon.” Like the bright red wash of colour on the album’s artwork, Good Advice is a bold, captivating record. Like the disembodied hand reaching up to put her hair in place on that same sleeve, Basia Bulat exudes a quiet strength, confident that, though time is usually the most objective arbiter of shoulds or shouldn’t-haves, music is the soothing salve that makes those wounds heal faster.
In our digitally connected world, it’s easy to take for granted how vulnerable being open and sincere in one’s art can be. When making the personal public takes little more than click-and-sending, tapping into one’s personal and private experiences as source material may not seem all that risky. Where posts and selfies are fleeting ephemera, quickly lost amid the streams and static of social media, a work of art (like a record), has a life far beyond its point of creation. On Good Advice, Basia Bulat understands there is goodness to sow from following your intuition and taking inspiration from even the darkest and saddest of times.