Bulat, Basia: Are You In Love? LP

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Some records require a journey. Are You in Love?, Basia Bulat's extraordinary, glittering 2019 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. Somewhere in the middle of making her fifth album, Bulat took almost a whole year off. Because she had fallen in love, because her father died, because she had lost her sense of beauty and where it might be hidden. "The desert exposes you," she admits. "There's nowhere to hide." 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. She was inspired by singer-songwriters like Minnie Ripperton, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Silvio Rodriguez – artists who knew (and know) how to imbue quiet songs with sensational force and boundless loving-kindness. Artists who can sing the sun down – and also bring it up. Still, as work on the record began, "I was afraid to write what I wanted to write," Bulat admits. "I was afraid of some of the lyrics." Some of the words had come easily – songs like "Are You in Love?" or the Instagram-uncanny "Hall of Mirrors," composed one morning in Joshua Tree. But the essence of others was much more difficult to express. "Light Years," "Electric Roses" and "Already Forgiven" wrestle with desire, self-knowledge and reinvention. "Stories fail you when you're grown," she sings on "Fables," "My love for you is bold, take it all." Are You in Love? 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. It's searching and certain; it's the sound of a singer who's refusing to hide. The title track sashays like a girl-group classic; "No Control" flashes like that group's hard stare. "Already Forgiven" ripples with reverb like a ribbon in a windstorm, whereas "Your Girl" is cruising down the highway – with Bulat doing her best Christine McVie. "Love Is At The End of the World," the album's gradually thunderous closing tune, is one of the most thrilling things Bulat has ever created: a blazing, incandescent ever-after, all raw electric hope. "You could keep on running," she sings there, "you could start a war diamonds in the dust still sing into the dark."

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