Basia Bulat melds an affectless timbre like Zooey Deschanel’s with a throatiness reminiscent of Natalie Merchant, curling her words into a sad smile, and that expression not only defines her primary tone on “Good Advice,” it delineates her limitations. Whether frustrated, pleading, or just downhearted, Bulat’s genial melodicism won’t let her succumb to unhappy thoughts; in “Let Me In,” she’s bopping her head even as she furrows her brow. It’s a valid approach, but Bulat doesn’t mine it for tension, instead simply juxtaposing competing impulses. The songs (as produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James) sound compelling from a distance but remain stubbornly flat when given close attention. That’s not to say they aren’t well-crafted; burbling keyboards send ripples through the songs, and the simple, supple guitar line running through the title track gives it a modest jolt. But only “Infamous” finds just the right level of itchiness that “Good Advice” needs. It’s a hard album to dislike, and an equally hard one to love.
Basia Bulat performs at the Sinclair on April 2.Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.