Three albums into a career that was initially boosted by her ties to fellow Canadian act Arcade Fire (members of the Grammy-winning band have produced or co-produced each of her records), Basia Bulat has rocketed past any need for such big-name associations. Tall Tall Shadow reveals a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist bursting with creativity and expressiveness, one who belongs in a league with recent rising talents such as Sharon Van Etten as well as longer-term indie mainstays such as Neko Case.
Bulat’s versatility with guitar, piano, autoharp and charango (a lute-like Andean instrument) allows her to compose on a broad canvas, allowing the tone of her material to range from haunting balladry reminiscent of classic English folk (“Five, Four,” “Paris or Amsterdam”) to moody explorations (“The City With No Rivers”) to the instantly engaging urgency of “It Can’t Be You” and the title track. Binding it all together is Bulat’s spectacular and singular voice: She draws you in as if you’re privy to an intimate conversation, then suddenly soars high with sweetness and grace, seeking a revelation somewhere in the astral plane. She’s a brave singer, not one to hide her voice in a glaze of sound; the words stand out and cut deep. “Burn it till you’re set on fire/ Tell me when you cut the wires/ Talk me out of this time/ Open this heart of mine,” she implores on “Wires.” That deed is done: On Tall Tall Shadow, Bulat’s heart is wide open.