There’s a certain shock that hits when hearing a musician known for their folk music singing on a pop record. To be fair, “pop” as a musical genre is pretty broad and the style of pop in question here isn’t the brand typically associated with Katy Perry or Britney Spears. I obviously have no problem with that but the term “sell-out” is quick to be thrown in if that were the case, so for clarification, it’s not. Additionally, if the world kept spinning when Bob Dylan went electric, surely Basia Bulat singing over synths wouldn’t stop it either.
As a pop record, Good Advice maintains enough of Basia’s prior folky elements, mainly in the lyrics but also present in the melody, that it isn’t difficult to imagine the songs performed in a moodier setting.
That would be too easy though. Good Advice is a breakup record. Everyone expects breakup records to be sombre affairs. They usually are and that usually works fine. But not every breakup is the same and not every breakup has to have the same treatment.
On the surface, Good Advice sounds too upbeat to be about a breakup. With its bouncy beats, pop melodies, and dense wall of sound production courtesy of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, but those elements provide additional traction to the usual heartbreak, denial and desire. The wounds are fresh, but there’s more going on.
She avoids the situation in La La Lie, “When I say that I don’t need help/And I promise I will be fine/I la-la-lie…to myself,” allows herself to be talked into staying in the title track, “Your good advice I keep running from it/I shouldn’t ask since I never want it,” shows willingness to hold on in Time, “I don’t wait in line/But I can hold on to some time/Call me when you got the time,” and admits to still being in love on Fool: “I’m still your fool.”
Even though the production is sometimes overbearing, Basia’s rich voice maintains its stature as the highlight, in its ability to hit hard with every convincing word she reveals. Even with everything else going on, her vocals are the winning component on every track. That can be helpful when there is, sometimes, too much going on.
The record is slightly more challenging than it should be to grasp onto, with Infamous being the most immediate track. It takes some work to dig through the layers of sound and find that point of satisfaction but it does come.
1. La La Lie
2. Long Goodbye
3. Let Me In
4. In The Name Of
6. Good Advice
9. The Garden
10. Someday Soon