Non-Nordic Sunday: Basia Bulat – Love is at the End of the World (single from album)
Basia Bulat. Now there’s a name to conjure with. It sounds Turkish (?) but she is actually Polish-Canadian, originally from London, Ontario then brought up in Etobicoke, the industrial suburb to the west of downtown Toronto that you pass through on the way to and from the airport, if you know the area. She’s since decamped to Canada’s de facto music capital Montréal.
Bulat is a three-time Polaris Music Prize finalist and has been nominated for three JUNO Awards. She’s also a multi-instrument, able to play piano, autoharp, charango (like a lute), hammered dulcimer, ukulele, guitar and other instruments.
She has appeared on the same bill as the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Lanois, Arcade Fire, The National, Nick Cave, St Vincent and Beirut.
I last came upon her four years ago when reviewing her fourth album, ‘Good Advice’ in which I compared her to 1960s heroine Marianne Faithfull. I also saw her playing a live set in Manchester which was notably dynamic. (Although I had to look hard to see her, she’s tiny.)
She has recently released a new video for the song ‘Love is at the End of the World’ directed by Nora Rosenthal, which is the closing track on her most recent album ‘Are You in Love?’, released in the spring via Secret City Records and produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket whom she met at Austin City Limits in 2013 (as was ‘Good Advice’).
While I haven’t heard ‘Love is at the End of the World’ I do recall that when I reviewed ‘Good Advice’ on which all the songs were of desire and redemption I noticed that what she is particularly good at is soul searching and putting that soul on display for all to see. Not perhaps in the same class as, say, Fiona Apple, but getting there. Bulat and James share a love for gospel, soul and country music.James is based in Louisville, Kentucky, which isn’t a million miles from Nashville, which is where I’ve often thought Basia Bulat really belongs.
She explains the inspiration behind this song and video; “It began as a prayer of gratitude to friends who helped me through one of my darkest moments and became a promise to myself to always choose love over fear. We filmed this video in February before the world changed a thousand times over. It’s been such a hard year for so many - whenever I feel like the world is ending I know that at the same time so much love is being built into a new one.”
It’s a song of two halves, a restrained, mainly piano, piece initially but one which then detonates into pure rock with synthesisers and guitars underpinned by a repeating piano riff which, if I’d been producing it , I think I would have mixed upwards. But then I’m not a producer. Then it ends with something that could have been lifted from M83’s ‘Outro’.
The message is a simple but positive one – don’t wait for the end of the world to express love – find it and do it now.
A great song from a lady with a great voice, and a nice video to go with it, it makes me realise, yet again, what we’re missing by not being able to watch artists like Basia in the flesh right now. Hopefully the end of the world will be delayed until after we can do.
Every single gig in her 2020 Canada/U.S. tour was cancelled but some UK dates are tentatively scheduled for the autumn of 2021 (late August/early September – Glasgow/Leeds/Manchester/Bristol, with possible dates available for one in London).