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Basia Bulat 

Oh, My Darling (Rough Trade America)

Wednesday, Feb 13 2008

Think of Basia Bulat as one woman's answer to Antony and the Johnsons. The honeyed melodies and romantic melancholia contrived by the Canadian songwriter echo New York's premier chamber crooner in cinematic peaks and minimal valleys. Her song "Snakes and Ladders" glides along to classy piano arpeggios and cello counterpoints while she sounds hesitant, wondering in a nervous vibrato, "Who believes in fate anyway?" But Bulat's debut — released in Canada and the U.K. last year and in the U.S. earlier this month — doesn't carry the mope as heavily as Antony does, and is all the better for it. Moreover, it contrasts the lovelorn moments with a tremendous sense of joy conveyed through stirring uptempo numbers. "I Was a Daughter" leaps out of the speakers on the power of its fluttering 16th-note handclaps; "In the Night" may be indie music's first autoharp anthem. These exploratory, adventurous songs swell around miniature orchestral arrangements, not unlike the work Marla Hansen has crafted since striking out from Sufjan Stevens' band. On her less inspired moments (the jazz-licky "Why Can't It Be Mine"), Bulat sounds like late-era Beth Orton: languid, dull, but otherwise inoffensive. When she's on, she has the potential to make hearts melt and soar as easily as Antony.

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John Vettese


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