Archive for the ‘Basia Bulat’ Category

[POSTPONED: CANCELLED: April 11, 2020] Basia Bulat / Samantha Crain

indexI saw Basia Bulat on a Tiny Desk Concert many years ago. She played the pianoette and sounded amazing.

That Concert is from 2011 and she has changed a bit since then.  She is more poppy and less folky.  I’m not entirely sure I like her new stuff as much as her old stuff, but I was pretty sure she’d play some old stuff and maybe bring out the pianoette as well.

Samantha Crain is a Choctaw-American songwriter and has been performing since 2004.  I’m surprised I haven’t heard of her before as she is quite well regarded.  Well I look forward to seeing her in person some day.

UPDATE: On June 15, I received a refund, officially cancelling this show.



Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-Live at Massey Hall (July 10, 2014).

Baia Bulat is an adorable singer.  She plays autoharp and ukulele and seems incredibly upbeat.  She also has a soaring, delightful voice.

About Massey Hall she says, “It’s not a stadium or a club, it feels huge and intimate ta the same time.”

She opens with “Run” in which she plays the autoharp (and you can actually hear it amid the other instruments).

Next up is a new song “Five, Four” with Basia on guitar with a cool almost sinister bass line.

For “Wires,” she stays on guitar.  This song is almost aggressively upbeat and is much more upbeat.  It also has a fun middle section in which she sings an Ooooh melody  (like a solo) into a microphone with a distortion that makes it sound a bit like a kazoo. Its super catchy.  She even takes that microphone and walks around, ultimately hopping of the stage and sitting in the front row (and the guy next to her of course pulls out his phone) to continue with the oohs.

“Tall Tall Shadow” is a slow moodier song with a great big chorus. They leave the stage and come back (I’m surprised they left in the whole encore scene).

When they comeback she says, “We’re on a curfew so we’re going to try to not get in trouble.”  For an encore it’s her and two other women.  One is playing a small 8-string ukulele as they sing “Before I Knew.”

When it’s over she asks, Am I allowed to sneak one more in?  Try not to get kicked out of Massey Hall!  She gets out the ukulele and plays that wonderful melody of “It Can’t Be You.”  Then she walks away from the mic and sings her heart out.  You can’t always hear her that clearly, but you can hear her hitting the soaring notes.

It’s funny that she worries about curfew and then sings a rather long song.

But it’s a great collection of songs and a beautiful set.

[READ: March 15, 2018] Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

I really enjoyed Kristin Cronn-Mills’ book Ugly Fake which was kind of novel/graphic novel hybrid.  This is one of her earlier stories and it is all novel.  It is about music and teen angst and high school.

And it’s about a girl named Elizabeth who is in fact a boy and wants to be known as Gabe.  He has recently revealed this to his parents and his best friend, Paige.  Paige has been nothing but supportive.  His parents are a little more mixed about it.  And of course he hasn’t told anyone at school.  But since he dresses gender-neutral he has always been made fun of a school–where they know that he is Elizabeth.  He is somewhat surprised that the boys make fun of him more than the girls–calling him he-she-it.  Undoubtedly they are threatened by his looks.

But he is a senior, and school is almost over.  He can certainly cope until it’s time to move away to the city.

In the mean time, he has a DJ gig that is the best thing ever. (more…)

Read Full Post »

S2008_01_21OUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-Tiny Desk Concert #106 (January 24, 2011).

basiaFor some sad reason, this video cuts off about half way through the second song, so you need to watch it on YouTube instead.  Basia Bulat is a Canadian singer of Polish descent.  She’s adorable and plays weird instruments.  What’s not to like?

The first song “The Shore” is done entirely on a pianoette–she may be the only singer to play one.  The pianoette is a zither-like instrument with a strummed section and a hammered section.  Her voice is low and breathy.  And when, during the second verse, her backing band’s harmonies come in, it’s quite breathtaking.

The second song is done on guitar. It’s a Polish folks song–she says it was a big hit in the 60s in communist Poland.  She sings it in Polish and says it was a great way to learn her Polish words and pronunciations.  “W Zielonym Zoo” means “In The Green Zoo.”  It’s cute how happy and smiley she is as she explains this song.  It begins with just her on guitar and it’s quite a delight when Holly Coish on ukulele, Allison Stewart on viola and Ben Whiteley on bass join in.

pianoetteHer brother Bobby Bulat joins her on percussion for “Heart Of My Own.”  This song is louder and more dramatic and a lot of fun. The final song  “In The Night” is one she normally plays on the autoharp (see, unusual instruments) but she didn’t have it so she plays a rollicking guitar version with the full band (there’s some great violin solos in it).  Just before it starts she says that if it sucks, don’t use it.  It doesn’t suck at all.

I really like Bulat’s music a lot and this is a great way to witness it up close.  And here’s a picture of a pianoette.

[READ: January 8, 2015] “Ash Monday”

I wasn’t sure how much I would like this story (same old intro from me) because I didn’t like the main character (or one of the two main characters).  Dill is a delinquent.  He’s 13 and with a car (well, he has the car, he just cant drive it).  And hes loves the smell of gasoline.

When his mother tells him to goes outside to light the grill (as he does most nights–his mom doesn’t cook in the house apparently), he puts gasoline in it to light it up.  On this night he discovers a rat in the grill, so he takes the opportunity to dose the rat with the gasoline and set it on fire.  (If you’re squeamish, there is also the death of hundreds of chinchillas although that is from natural causes).

We don’t learn much about Dill’s mother except that her husband is gone and she is looking to date someone new.

The scene cuts to the next door neighbor, Sanjuro Ishiguro (Dill calls him “Itchy-goro” and once called him a motherfucking gook).  Ishiguro is a respectable businessman.  He works long hours often getting to work before everyone else.  And although he gets along with his workmates, he is definitely not one of them.  They like to ask him about sports when they know he knows nothing about it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

11SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“Tall Tall Shadow” and “It Can’t Be You” live at Polaris Music Prize (2014).

basiaSwinging to the other side of the musical world from Tanya Tagaq, Basia Bulat also performed at the 2014 Polaris.  I like Bulat a lot, she comes across as a sweet singer (no idea if she is actually sweet).  And I love that she can make really complex songs out of such random instruments (she plays autoharp, hammered dulcimer and others).

In this performance, she is fairly traditional for “Tall Tall Shadow” on the piano (although the french horn accompaniment is a nice twist), but “It Can’t Be You” on charango really highlights just what you can do with, essentially, a souped up ukulele.

“Shadow” highlights her voice which she holds for some quite long notes.  The song is really pretty with a great chorus.  “It Can’t Be You” is just her and the charango (which looks like a ten string ukulele but is Andean in origin).  It’s quite a song–her voice and that instrument are lovely.

[READ: February 4, 2015] Grantland #11

I enjoyed this issue quite a lot, even if I didn’t know who half of the people profiled were (and won’t remember them in two days time).

I am very curious why Grantland is just so obsessed with basketball than other sports.  It’s a little crazy how one sided these books tend to be.  They obviously love all sports but the preponderance of NBA articles is really staggering.

I do wish there’d be a bit more about TV and movies (and even more about the shows that I watch), but it is a fun way to learn about shows I would never watch.  And maybe that’s why I like these books so much, it’s my chance to vicariously enjoy sports without having to care about any of it (especially since it is all a year old, I never know if anything they talk about actually came to fruition or not).

This issue covers January-March 2014 (it’s fun reading about things almost exactly a year apart–to read about Oscars and Super Bowl stuff but have it be last year’s Super Bowl (especially since it too had the Seahawks) was very trippy indeed).


Read Full Post »


While looking for videos of Basia Bulat, I stumbled upon a Polish music site.  The site featured a review of this album and a free stream of this song.

The album is a collaboration of artists Ann Noël, Grzegorza Pleszyńskiego and Artura Maćkowiaka (Ann Noël, Grzegorz Pleszynski and Artur Maćkowiak).  Their website explains the collaboration (in translated English obviously):

It is for the first time that Fluxus artist Ann Noël and a visual artist Grzegorz Pleszynski engage in a music venture. For Maćkowiak, a musician from Potty Umbrella and Something Like Elvis, this project has become an unprecedented way to go beyond rock band routines known for years.

Potty Umbrella?  Love it.

Anyhow, this is experimental improv music of the most fascinating kind. Especially since, “Ann and Grzegorz have never played music or any instrument.”  The site allows you to listen to all of the tracks.  “In Emmet’s Bag” is a spoken word piece in the spirit of Laurie Anderson (the spoken part is in English).  And “Hey Man!” is a pretty conventional guitar with spoken word piece.

But it’s this track, “Salty Air” that I keep coming back to.  It opens with some guitar waves. Then a simple repeated riff entrs the mix.  And after a minute or so, distorted, echoed vocals speak underneath the music.  I think it’s in English but that’s irrelevant because the repeating and echoing makes it almost incomprehensible.

It doesn’t evoke a mood so much as a kind of helplessness.  But it’s a beautiful helplessness.  Especially when the second voice comes in, sounding almost inhuman as it moans over the top of everything else.  It’s quite a track.

 You can hear this song (and others, and download the CD for $.50) at their site.

[READ: July 10, 2011] “The Swan”

“The Swan” was a wonderfully dark and confusing story.  I loved everything about it.  It opens with the very simple scene of David coming home from work and knowing something was wrong.  His wife Suzie is acting very strange, and where the hell is the car?  Suzie tells him that she was hit by a car and that her car was totalled.  Why didn’t she call him at work?  She didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

He doesn’t know what to think so he turns his anger towards his seventeen year old son (from his first marriage).  Jamie is upstairs in his room, smoking pot and more or less ignoring everything around him (a trait he has perfected).  When David finally breaks through to Jamie, he learns the truth–Suzie was hit by a swan.

The story unfolds a little more: Suzie imagined that the swan was David’s first wife, coming to give her a message.  David is more freaked out by this than Suzie seems to be.  He can’t understand why suddenly all these years later, she is so upset about his first wife (who died, before David met Suzie, by the way).  Suzie wants to know why David never talked about her (she didn’t want to know back then).  And then finally she winds up spending most of her time with a sketchy woman across town. (more…)

Read Full Post »


I loved Basia Bulat’s “In the Night” which wa s fun, uptempo folk rocker.  “The Shore” is a hauntingly beautiful, wistful ballad.  “In the Night” featured the autoharp as its main instrument, but “The Shore” features the pianoette as its sole instrument (on this recording anyway, I haven’t heard it on the record).

Listenin to the song is great, a wonderful expereicen.  But once you watch her play it, the song is even more powerful.  This video in particular is enchnating–where is this beautiful open room?  How did she learn to play the pianoette?  What is that little hammer she’s using?  Is anyone not blown away the first time she hits a string for multiple notes and the song goes from simple to majestic?

And what do you suppose uwolnijmuzyke means?  I don’t know, but it’s a really cool music site from Poland.

Pretty good, huh?

[READ: July 13, 2011] Dining with the Tiger

I wasn’t going to talk about this “review” either.  But several things stood out for me:  John Banville!  It’s hard to pass on him.  I also seem to be talking a lot about food this week (what with Will Self, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki and Lucky Peach in general).  And because I have to wonder if my friend Lar knows of any of restaurants that Banville mentions (now that he is a landed, married gentleman and not the post-graduate guy who would take an American mate to an “American” diner on Grafton Street–which was lorryloads of fun, make no mistake).

So Banville gives a brief run through of the state of Irish restaurants circa the end of WWII–as in, there were none.  Then came the 1990s and the critical moment in Irish culture–the scandal of Bishop Eamon Casey and his unexpected son. The scandal seemed to rock the country, but mostly it made them let fall the shackles of conformity across the country.  Banville suggests that such a major event could have shaken a Catholic country to the core, but in Ireland, it seems to have just woken everyone up to the possibility of making money. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“In the Night” (2008).

I recently came across Basia Bulat via NPR.  She played a Tiny Desk concert and I discovered that she had several other entries in the NPR canon.

Basia is Canadian (of Polish descent); she has a beautiful strong mid-range/throaty voice and a great sense of melody.  She also has a bit of a gimmick: she plays all kinds of instruments (guitar, piano, sax, etc) including some really weird and unexpected instruments: Zither, pianoette (!) and autoharp–a couple of years before PJ Harvey brought it back to the mainstream.


“In the Night” is a wonderfully chipper poppy song.  And that autoharp gives it just a tinge of “huh?’ that makes it more than just a simple pop song.  The beat is fast and energetic, the harmonies are wonderful and the melody is top-notch.

I really like this song a lot, and the other snippets of songs that I’ve heard from her are equally wonderful.   I’ve even noticed that lately she’s been singing a song in Polish!

[READ: July 12, 2011] “Gastronomania”

I’m not going to go crazy reviewing all of the book reviews in Harper’s (that way lies madness), but occasionally an author I like writes a bit that I want to mention.  So Will Self, who I like but have not read a lot of, wrote this essay/book review about food.  He reviews three books, but what I especially liked about it was his introduction, which uses Luis Buñuel’s Le fantôme de la liberté [The Phantom of Liberty] as its starting point.  In the film (which I have not seen), the house’s dining room is actually a well…watch this clip:

It’s a wonderfully bizarre introduction to an essay about food.

It was unclear to me what made Will Self suitable to review three books about cooking.  And then (news to me) he revealed that he used to be a food critic (columns are collected in his book Junk Mail) and that Anton Ego in Ratatouille (yes that Ratatouille) bears “an uncanny, if not legally actionable” resemblance to him.

This essay was so much fun.  Self is as viciously negative about these books as he apparently was about food back in the day.  But he’s not dismissive of them as cookbooks per se, he’s more about trashing the current worship of food (and many other things too of course). (more…)

Read Full Post »