Dragging my feet across the hardened snow makes such a chilling sound. The scraping, the crunching; like nails across a chalkboard. It was seven degrees (Celsius) earlier this week, why the such a drastic drop in temperature? This is what I get for living smack in between all of the Great Lakes, on a snow-belt. I forgot my toque at home, so now waiting for the bus is a killer. The cold bites my ears like rabid dogs– the darkness surrounds as a depressing reminder that it’s only six o’clock. Damn you winter. I situate my crappy headphones inside of my now numb ears; mumbling some expletives in mourning of my much better headphones, recently departed. I need something to warm me up, and because a bottle of scotch is out of the question I begin to skim through the artists on my iPod. Something poppy and fun? I’d rather not. Something contemplative and introspective? Nah. As the letters blur together I fade into my thoughts and skim my own memories of artists. Then it hits me and I scroll up to the ‘B’ section and put on a recently added album to my collection.
I’m standing at the bus stop with hands firmly planted in the pockets of my peacoat and my face holding a look that probably seems totally unapproachable. Bitter cold. A light dusting of snow has started to fall– full, large flakes gently glide to the ground like descending cherubs from a sepulchral heaven. The sound of a steadily strummed guitar and sweet voice engulf me. Soon a martial snare rush rises from the steady pounding and the song picks up pace. I look down at the screen and light it up with the touch of my un-gloved finger. “Go On,” it reads, almost teasing me like the subtle piano line that enters half-way through. So I heed the call and I do go on, but I’m still freezing my ass off and the bus is late. The sweet serenity of the music continues on in a steady pace as the tracks pass on. I continue to peer down the road to see if the bus is coming, but no such luck. Only sparsely populated sidewalks and the row of ornate street lamps, their yellow light slowly choked out by the increasingly heavy snow fall. But sometime between “Go On” and the gentle folk guitar and sweet serenading of “Sugar and Spice” I realize that I’m not quite as cold as I was before.
And just as the grimacing faces of my fellow travelers of the public sphere are about to lose any traces of hope, an orange light above two white ones appears in the distance. “About damn time,” I think to myself and as if to parallel my mood, the upbeat march of “Gold Rush” comes on. The violins and fiddle rise above a confident beat and I feel all that much better about the day as I can climb onto the bus. Sure it might be crowded, with strange people looking at you, and annoying people yelling into their cell phones right beside you. But dammit, it’s warm and beggars can’t be choosers. Just as I step onto the bus, the driver barely even acknowledging my pass, I realize that all the seats are taken and there is only standing room. Blast. A perfect comedown companion is found in “Heart of My Own” with mournful back-up harmonies and quiet banjo lines guiding the title track of the album. It encompasses the overall mood of the album very well, spritely and joyful, but with an undercurrent of forlorn and heartache. The following track epitomizes these feelings in the lines, “she won’t change at all / black sparrow fall.” The bus may be packed and cramped, but indeed it is warmer than that bitter cold.
Peering out the window the lights blur and only the silhouettes of non-descript buildings etch out against the late evening sky, now beginning to bare its stars. As the bus makes its run the passengers slowly disperse and seats become available. I sit down in one immediately to my left, next to a pretty girl who is reading Kafka, this is how cool university can be sometimes. I think about perhaps striking up a conversation: “oh, I’m reading The Trial too.” But then I think twice; if I were in her shoes, would I want to be interrupted from a classic novel by some average looking guy? Probably not, and while nothing ventured means nothing gained, nothing ventured also means nothing slapped. Either way, the soft, propulsive piano chords and signature auto-harp of “The Shore” draws me back into the music. It’s kind of an intriguing feat, the music being able to draw my attention away from a pretty girl so easily. It was getting really hot with all those people on the bus, but now it’s almost comfortable as it empties out. And that voice is just so soothing and inviting. This certainly isn’t the perfect album, I imagine if I wanted to I could find it’s flaws, but right now it just feels so... well, warm.
And that voice is Basia Bulat’s, and that warm feeling is the best way to describe her new album Heart of My Own. An album that is superbly crafted and can alternate between the tender (“Once More, for the Dollhouse”) and the up-tempo (“Heart of My Own”) with such ease. Now I can’t wait to get home, eat some dinner and relax for the night.