Oh My Darling

With her penchant for floppy hats and her pale blonde hair, London, Ontario?based Basia Bulat could pass for a high school girl. But her music so perfectly evokes decades of the classic chanteuse that one feels she would be equally at home on the am dial alongside Joni Mitchell, playing festivals with Tonya Donnelly or Liz Phair in her acoustic period, or opening for the likes of Sondre Lerche and Loney, Dear (which she actually has done). Bulat's debut album, Oh My Darling, opens with a song about first love, accompanied only by ukulele, simple handclaps, and Bulat's own throaty, magnificently distinguished voice. Though that voice alone could make a career, Bulat plays guitar, banjo, ukulele, saxophone, flute, upright bass, and autoharp; the latter makes for a striking image when she breaks it out onstage at rock clubs. She moves easily from barely-there instrumentation to symphonic compositions. Brother Bobby's drums lend some rock 'n' roll to the proceedings, especially on the rollicking single "In the Night." While Bulat would fit nicely on a mix tape alongside contemporaries Feist and Becky Sharp of Lavender Diamond, one could imagine that particular tape could be passed along to both the college kids and their parents and sound familiar to each group. -

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

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Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).