Basia Bulat: “Tall Tall Shadow”

Photo by Caroline Desilets

Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat earned praise from fans and critics alike for her lovely voice and her take on folk and Americana (not to mention her signature autoharp) on her 2007 debut Oh, My Darling and 2010’s Heart of My Own. But Bulat took a more modern approach to her latest record Tall Tall Shadow, incorporating more electronic instruments and elements, but she still remains the same great artist.

Bulat grew up in Toronto. In 2005 she self-released an eponymous EP that caught the ear of producer Howard Bilerman (he also played drums on Arcade Fire’s Funeral). Bilerman helped Bulat craft what would be her debut full-length Oh, My Darling. The record impressed the folks at famed U.K. indie Rough Trade, and they released the album across the water in spring 2007. A North American release followed that summer, and the following year, the record earned Bulat a spot on the shortlist for Canada’s Polaris Prize. In 2010, Bulat issued her sophomore record Heart of My Own–an album inspired by a trip to Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Earlier this fall, Bulat released her third full-length Tall Tall Shadow. She enlisted the help of engineer Mark Lawson and another Arcade Fire member, Tim Kingsbury, to help her produce the record. The album, with its electronic elements and stronger emphasis on atmospheric layering (The slinky “Promise Not to Think About Love” or “Never Let Me Go” are examples), has a more contemporary feel than its predecessors, but it’s not so much a departure as an evolution. Her folky side (and her autoharp) is still all over the album (“Five Four,” with its off-kilter rhythm, begins that way), but the additional arrangements only enhance her songwriting, and really gives her strong, expressive voice something to stick to. Take the title track. The track-one song begins simply, keyboards electric and acoustic and Bulat’s voice–hushed but soulful. Her vocals get bigger as the arrangements build behind her, and build they do. Drums roll and cymbals crash, the strings come up, and the rhythm gets defiant. On “Tall Tall Shadow” she’s not the folkie of previous outings, she’s so much more, and still definitely herself.

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