Good Advice

Basia Bulat

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Good Advice Review

by Mark Deming

Basia Bulat has acknowledged she went through a rough romantic breakup before she began writing the songs for her fourth full-length album, 2016's Good Advice, and even if she hadn't told anyone, it wouldn't be hard to figure out given the tenor of the songs. The first two numbers, "La La Lie" and "Long Goodbye," are pointedly addressed to someone who has a hard time telling the truth, while on "Let Me In," a similar character is chastised for his inability to open up and accept people around him, and "Infamous" concerns a guy who takes his bad-boy side a bit too seriously. Whoever broke Bulat's heart is not getting off easily on Good Advice, but if she feels wronged, her disappointment is articulate and expressed with intelligence as well as a dash of venom, and her vocals are airy as usual but full of confidence and emotional strength. Good Advice also finds Bulat working with Jim James of My Morning Jacket for the first time; he produced the set and matches her songs with keyboard-based arrangements that sound electronic and organic at the same time, full of the sheen of vintage synthesizers, but paired with rhythms that sound like the work of human beings. Musically, Good Advice is a long way from the folk-leaning sound of Bulat's early work, but it sounds as personal and heartfelt as anything she's released. If this is a pop move, it's one that's just idiosyncratic enough to prompt raised eyebrows from radio programmers and the average pop music consumer, at least on first spin. But a bad boyfriend has given Bulat plenty to say, and she has the talent and courage to speak from her heart and make her ideas heard. Anyone who has ever had a (broken) heart will find something they can understand on Good Advice.

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