Review – “Tall Tall Shadow” – Basia Bulat

reviewed by Laura Stanleyartworks-000053504755-68gzj9-original 

In earlier press for her new record, Toronto’s Basia Bulat said the inspiration for Tall Tall Shadow came after the death of a close friend, leaving the songstress battling the darkness and lightness in her own life.

The title then, Tall Tall Shadow, is one which wholly represents the vulnerability and the battle between a constant gloom and an illuminating hope that fills Bulat’s new record.

The first time I heard Basia Bulat was when an old friend told me to listen to the song “Heart Of My Own” – the title track from her 2009 record. I remember being so blown away by the sheer size and force of Bulat’s voice. The subtle vocal quivers and the sounds of the raspy breath intake adding a little texture to it all, had Heart Of My Own, now both the song and the record, on repeat for days.

This voice and its power is one that does not falter in Tall Tall Shadow and, if possible, seems to have even more strength than ever before. The opening and title track is quick to display Bulat’s unremitting vocal prowess but it is also the melodiousness of this first song that suggests a change in her music making.

The upbeat tempo and almost pop anchored “Tall Tall Shadow”, the subtle backing “ooo”s scattered throughout the song help with this pop feeling, embodies a spirit that is heard only sparingly in the past and one that does not stand alone on this record. The album’s third song “Promise Not To Think About Love” incorporates this vitality as well for a radio friendly, clap along, tune.

Slightly straying from her, beginning to be, trademark autoharp, Tall Tall Shadow notably explores new, more electronic, soundscapes for Bulat. (With that being said, don’t worry Tall Tall Shadow is not fully without it. Actually, “Promise Not To Think About Love” features the familiar sound of the autoharp.) “The City With No Rivers” remains steady by a low synth and the song “Someone” is the most unrecognizable, if it wasn’t for the voice of course, Bulat song with an electronic drumming beat providing the percussion.

What is easily the centrepiece of the record happens early on with the minimalistic “It Can’t Be You.” With only a charango, and Bulat’s vocals, the song’s haunting grief will fill every corner of the room you listen to it in with the repetition of the simple phrase, “It can’t be you.”

The sparse instrumentation found in “It Can’t Be You” returns as Tall Tall Shadow begins to fade. The heartbreakingly hopeful “Paris or Amsterdam” has Bulat playing a warm sounding pianoette while the melancholic “Never Let Me Go” focuses on a communal vocal performance over instruments.

Seasonally fitting, Tall Tall Shadow concludes with the end of summer and the passing into fall as beautifully told in “From Now On.” Though the death of summer typically brings sadness, it is in the burning embers of autumn that a strength is found. You watch as the dark shadows, previously unable to be penetrated, begin to wander off.

Top Tracks: “It Can’t Be You,” “Paris or Amsterdam”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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