Artist: Basia Bulat
Album: Heart of My Own
Critic: Amy Granzin
Publication: Pitchfork, 2010
Writing Disorders: Purple Hemorrhage, Detachment Syndrome
WTF: “Not only does such embellishment gild the lily in an already crowded hothouse”
Amy, I decided to feature you again on RipFork for a few reasons. First, I discovered that your name is plugged into keyword searches more frequently than many other reviewers. I can only wonder why that is, but statistically it gives me more readers. Second, I didn’t really feel like enduring Scott Plaegenhoef’s moist novella about Hot Chip’s new release. But third and most importantly, you’re the queen of purple prose. And that’s fun for me.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are a just few of the ripest grapes:
“lilting waltz-time folk as jazz-cadenced pop as licensable indie catnip”
“a fresh find in the notoriously musty folk-pop bin”
“Bulat favors the humble autoharp, clutching it to her chest like a Victorian nursemaid with an infant”
Oh, and here’s my favorite:
“Graceful and incandescent, confident but approachable, her alto’s the aural equivalent of the perfect party host who makes every guest not only welcome, but certain they’re the most important person in the room.”
I hear her voice also bakes savory homemade spanikopita and strikes up lighthearted entertainment with an impromptu game of Taboo! If you comment on how perfectly the giant IKEA print of Audrey Hepburn complements the couch throw, maybe her incandescent voice will glow even brighter!
You know, Amy, sometimes I can’t tell whether some music critics really do have EXTREMELY anal ears, or if they just inflate minuscule artistic decisions as legitimate defects to avoid giving an album an uncomfortably high rating. Take this, for example:
“though he at times nudged the taste needle with torrid pianos and flowery strings, Darling successfully balanced slick studio intervention with a charming handmade rustle and clatter (not to mention a lot of enthusiastic handclapping).”
Take note, bands. Charming handmade rustle/clatter and enthusiastic handclapping will earn you more props than flowery strings. But wait! – what’s this:
“Gold Rush”, wisely released as the LP’s first single, interprets “rush” literally, with stomped beats, gushing strings, and Bulat’s fevered vocal performance.”
Whoa, whoa, WHOA. Hold your horses there, missy. Didn’t you JUST write that whoever produced Basia Bulat’s first album “nudged the taste needle” with “flowery strings?” How is there enough of a difference between flowery strings and gushing strings to nudge the taste needle in a more positive direction, as you’re implying here? How is one wise and the other not so wise? Could it be that there’s no answer other than it’s a load of BS?
While the momentum holds, let’s continue with the theme of nonsensical, minute objections. I always enjoy when Pitchfork writers neatly confine all their superficial gripes about someone else’s work to the penultimate paragraph. It makes it a lot easier for me. You even stuck a signpost in the gripe stanza for easy reference:
“Unfortunately, Heart‘s production work, again by Bilerman, isn’t always successful.”
And by “successful,” you mean it didn’t quite measure up to your weird standards? I’m not even sure what those standards are, but maybe we can get a few steps closer to understanding by examining some of the staggering faults you found:
“Possibly more distracting are the precious sleigh bells roped around “Run”‘s neck and mixed too high. I think I speak for everyone when I say so soon after the holidays: I don’t want to hear another goddamned jingle bell for at least 10 months.”
So, Bulat got the ass-end of your stick because she didn’t release her album within the two-month lapse of your aversion to a type of bell? Seems pretty weak. What else you got?
“Bulat seems out of breath competing with the brute-forced keyboards of “Walk You Down”
So…what? She should have added more volume workouts and power training to build endurance before entering the studio? I guess Bulat writing and recording her own album of music isn’t worth much if she can’t win the 800-meter Granzin in this year’s Pitchfork Games.
Oh, I see you have one more compelling reason to dock points:
“And despite all the ace moments in “Gold Rush”, a choir’s “ah ah ah ahs” that sneak in on the song’s bridge sound stolen from Arcade Fire’s Funeral sessions”
And since Arcade Fire invented the choir-sung chorus in 2005, they own the exclusive rights. Yeesh, duh! I suppose a band incorporating a centuries-old sound because they like it is out of the question. THEFT is the obvious answer.
I’ll let you go out to recess soon, Amy, but first I want to highlight how you might have trimmed your 600-word review down a few dress sizes without losing any substance. Take this:
“It probably goes without saying that Bulat’s flush-with-feeling lyrics aren’t going to appeal to the more cynical consumers of singer-songwriter fare. (Then again, you could count those oxymoronic individuals on two hands.)”
Well, Amy, I sure am glad you burned the real estate to highlight those six to 10 cynical consumers. Here’s a thought: if it probably goes without saying, a better course of action might be to not say it. Here’s something else you could have done without:
“It’s a mistake to read Bulat’s songs as pre-Raphaelite pictorials or confessional Lilith Fair bait, though.”
Ah yes, because someone else’s subjective reading of the music is a mistake when put up against your subjective reading of the music. Let’s disregard for a moment that you THINK it’s a mistake without writing it that way. Assuming anyone even knows what the hell a “pre-Raphaelite pictorial” is, does the prospect of that someone mistaking Bulat’s songs as such really warrant the admonition?
Amy, I’m getting uncomfortably close to the 1000-word mark. So before I run the risk of a forum poster named “Black Amnesia of Heaven” pegging me as a terrible writer, I’ll end here. See you again soon, I hope.