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Basia Bulat | Are You in Love?

There is much to adore about the singer-songwriter's latest bold, restless outing.

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THE PRESS RELEASE: “Some records require a journey. Are You in Love?, Basia Bulat’s extraordinary, glittering new album, required two: The Canadian singer went to the Mojave Desert and then she went away – turning inward, shaking off the shadows, looking out to dawn. Like 2016’s Good Advice, Are You in Love? was made with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. I want to make a really beautiful record about compassion, she had written to him, and Joshua Tree seemed like the perfect location: the site for a quest, finding music in the dunes. Gathered at Hi-Dez Studios, Bulat and her band jammed for hours — then built fires, went for hikes, drove in circles chasing dust-devils and mirages. James helped the songwriter trust her instincts — “he knows how hard it can be to make records” — but she also pushed herself to be vulnerable in new ways, testing different kinds of collaboration. The record wasn’t done when Bulat came home to Montreal — and by mid-2018, she had stepped away from the songs. It would be nine more months before she was ready again to listen to her own voice. There was death and grief, but also forgiveness, reinvention and love: “coming to terms with the past and acceptance of the present and trying to stay open to the future.” The result – after returning to these recordings in spring 2019, singing the songs live in Australia, mixing and re-mixing in L.A. – is an album that’s gorgeous and startling, quietly strange, a shining desert record with a bit of dusty rose over all its 13 tracks. Are You in Love? is searching and certain; it’s the sound of a singer who’s refusing to hide.”

MY TWO CENTS: The sonic landscape is saturated with soundalike singer-songwriters these days. But Basia Bulat always manages to stand out from the crowd, thanks to the full-bodied shiver of his distinctive vocals and her boldly expressive and creatively restless songwriting. My Morning Jacket majordomo Jim James once again proves a fine foil for her talents, enveloping her rich melodies and confessional lyrics in artsy textures, distinctive sonics and a stylistic menu that covers everything from indie-rock and alt-folk to girl-group and country. What is not to love?