Monday, January 8th, 2007
Snakes And Ladders
I need to go see a show somewhere besides the Drake. Thursday night was my third straight show there in the past 10 nights and while venues with padded benches are always a welcome destination, I could use a change of scenery. On this night, the draw was a sort of “best of the 519” bill with London, Ontario’s Basia Bulat headlining things, accompanied by Guelphies Barzin and Habitat.
Habitat are a co-ed duo including John O’Reagan from The D’Urbervilles, Sylvie Smith and a bunch of cheap and cheerful keyboards. Utilizing the sounds and rhythms pre-programmed in some far east electronics factory, they simultaneously embrace and transcend the inherent cheesiness of the sounds and turn out charming and heartfelt synth-pop that sounds not unlike a lower-budget Postal Service if Jen Wood was a full-time member of the band. A really pleasant discovery.
I saw Barzin in this very room almost a month ago opening for Jenn Grant. Unlike that show, this time he did play some material from My Life In Rooms (at least that I recognized) and seemed to be a bit jauntier and countrier – more Dylan than Kozelek. But that’s a fine distinction and more than anything, Barzin’s set remained slow, delicate and pretty.
I spent the better part of the weekend trying to figure out exactly how to do Bulat’s music justice with words. Using the most straightforward descriptors – jazz-inflected, orchestral folk pop with a dash of northern soul – make it sound more conventional than I’d like so instead, I’ll try this. Basia Bulat sounds like springtime smiling. Her music is rich yet breezy, with a melodic enthusiasm that’s nothing short of delightful. Obviously enthused by the solid turnout, Bulat was charming, self-effacing and otherwise radiant, previewing material from her forthcoming debut album Oh, My Darling, due out on Rough Trade in March in the UK and domestically on a label to be determined, hopefully thenabouts as well.
And though Bulat’s pen and voice are undeniably talented in their own right, full credit must be given to her band who are obviously far more than a collection of backing players. Besides having the chops and versatility to conceive and execute the musical arrangements that buoy and bolster the songs, the familial bonds between them (both literal and figurative – Bulat’s brother Bobby is her drummer) created a real warm and supportive vibe onstage that naturally spilled into the audience. Considering that this was likely her last Toronto show for a little while – at least until the album is out and she begins getting many well-deserved plaudits – it felt a bit like both a send-off and a coming-out party. Big things are coming.
Said The Gramophone has a couple songs for download and there’s more streaming on her MySpace. Check it out and get Oh, My Darling when it comes out.
Photos: Basia Bulat, Barzin, Habitat @ The Drake Underground – January 4, 2007
MP3: Habitat – “Snow Song”
MP3: Habitat – “Next Year”
MP3: Barzin – “Leaving Time”
MP3: Barzin – “Lets Go Driving”
Video: Barzin – “Leaving Time” (YouTube)
MySpace: Basia Bulat
Emily Haines tells The Boston Herald it’s a wonderful time to be a Canuck. Okay, their word – not hers. She also talks to Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The National Post as her Winter tour gets underway. Also note that NPR will be broadcasting her show in DC live this Wednesday night, starting at 9:30PM.