Canadian talent,

Come on Canada; stop listening to that goddamn Colbie Caillat song. Just because Universal Music Group thinks she’s marketable doesn’t mean she’s good Can/Con. You need a woman with real talent singing real songs that mean something. You need Basia Bulat.

The Canadian music scene is an a really weird place right now in a lot of ways. One of them is outlined in this excellent Exclaim! article called, “Importing Our Own.” The genesis is this: at a time when the world is paying more attention than ever to Canadian (independent) music, the instances of home-grown success stories are few and far between. Nine times out of ten, noteworthy acts are technically being imported into Canada because we don’t have a comparable label/distribution sector to the UK or U.S. so we end up having our most revered groups signing there. Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Born Ruffians, Junior Boys, Germans, and Tokyo Police Club all now fall into that category (though TPC did get their buzz up via Paper Bag Records, a Canadian label). In the case of Junior Boys and Born Ruffians, those groups were getting offers from UK labels while at the same time being completely ignored by the Canadian industry. The Ruffians couldn’t even get anyone to put out their first single. Then they signed to one of the UK’s biggest labels.

Basia Bulat falls into the same category. She recorded her first LP, Oh, My Darling, last year in Ontario with no label support or interest. Her producer sent a copy to Geoff Travis, head of London’s Rough Trade label/store, usually considered one of independent music’s more influential labels. He signed her immediately. Only a few months after that happened did Canada’s Hardwood Records come sniffing and the record was put out last year.

Oh, My Darling is bookended by shorter songs that strip bare the instrumentation that fills out the songs in between, both introducing and cementing the real selling point: her voice. Slightly flinty and sultry, lilting and gentle at times but capable of largeness when needed. “I Was A Daughter” is the standout of the record in my mind, where a galloping rhythm of drums and handclaps races alongside Bulat’s autoharp (you might recognize it from the Carter family recordings if you’re not a huge folkie), culminating in a dizzying, swirling, melodic climax marked by insistent violins and soaring vocals. A gorgeous opening hat trick is completed by the sparse and somber, “Little Waltz,’ carried by a simple acoustic guitar figure and a sorrowful string section. The piano-driven “Snakes and Ladders” and the upbeat “In The Night” are also highlights, and the entire second half is weaved together masterfully.

Her low profile seems odd to me, given that Canada generally embraces folkier acts. The Great Lake Swimmers, the Hidden Cameras (also on Rough Trade), Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Chad VanGaalen (at times)…all have achieved some level of notoriety and acclaim by working within the Canadian system. But Bulat’s material is equally as engaging and gorgeous, and in some cases (see below) even more accessible and “pop” than most of those group’s material. But I guess every once in a while those that are deserving of our attention and praise fall through the cracks.Hopefully that won’t happen to Basia Bulat. Do your part by checking out these songs!

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