Think of Basia Bulat as a one-woman answer to Antony and the Johnsons. The Canadian songwriter's honeyed melodies and romantic melancholia on her debut, Oh, My Darling, echo New York's premier chamber crooner. "Snakes and Ladders" glides along to classy piano arpeggios and cello counterpoints while she hesitantly wonders in a nervous vibrato, "Who believes in fate anyway?" But Bulat doesn't mope as heavily as Antony does on Darling. Moreover, the album contrasts its lovelorn moments with a tremendous sense of joy: "I Was a Daughter" leaps out of the speakers on the power of its fluttering sixteenth-note handclaps, while "In the Night" may be indie music's first autoharp anthem. These cinematic, adventurous songs swell around miniature orchestral arrangements, not unlike the work Marla Hansen has crafted since striking out from Sufjan Stevens' band. On Bulat's less inspired moments (the jazz-licky "Why Can't It Be Mine"), she sounds like late-era Beth Orton: languid, dull but otherwise inoffensive. When she's on, she has the potential to make hearts melt and soar as easily as Antony.
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