I was first introduced to Micheal Bastarache’s music about a year ago when I reviewed his previous album Half Truth for Bucketlist. At times, doing this can be a bit hit and miss in terms of what you come across, but I have to say that Half Truth was, and still is, one of the best albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. Needless to say I was stoked to hear that he’d put out another album. Nothin Set For Tomorrow is Bastarache’s fourth album, released in December 2015 exclusively to Bandcamp. Written in the spring and summer of 2015 whilst traveling throughout middle and eastern Canada in true maritime fashion, it was recorded in two weeks at The Shire Studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Nothin Set For Tomorrow opens with the piano-laden “The Trouble With Freedom,” which immediately strikes me as a slight divergence from Bastarache’s usual “nothing-but-a-guitar-and-haunting-vocals” sound I’ve come to love. That’s alright though; with the chorus comes the harmonica, which compliments the almost erratic and powerful piano. It’s a bit different, but it works.
The second track “Mairead” is a perfect example of exactly what makes Bastarache a wicked musician. Songs like this one are slow moving, but overflowing with an effortless sentimentality. The chords are simple, and in their simplicity allow you to be captured by the enchanting and evocative lyrics. He is a superb poet (which also seems completely effortless and genuine), and littered throughout are spatial references of a life lived in eastern Canada.
“L’escogriffe,” like “Mairead,” is another experimental divergence from his old-school folk vibe. However rather than a piano ballad, here Bastarache tries his hand at spoken word. Melding themes of religiosity and booze (among others), “Mairead” is as beatnik as it gets. His ability to strip his voice down to a monotone is perfectly suitable for this style, while the poem receives all of its colour from the pure beauty of its lines. “Where Are You Going” is my favourite track on Nothin Set For Tomorrow. There is a perfect harmony between the chords, lyrics, and vocals that come together as something that is not quite punk, grunge, or folk, but a mix of all three. “The Crows Serenade” is a twangy, playful story that sounds like a pure railway blues track straight out of the 1950s.
Last on the album is “Nothin,” an old folk track that has been covered by many but was originally written by Townes Van Zandt. It just happens to be one of my favourite songs of that genre. Bastarache is able to channel Van Zandt in an eerily accurate manner to the point that it would be difficult to determine that it is not Van Zandt himself. Bastarache definitely knows how to pick tracks that he can nail.
Nothin Set For Tomorrow contains different elements that Bastarache hasn’t previously explored, but here the piano and spoken word serve to display his ability to kick ass in whichever genre he may choose. While it begins to pull in another direction, Bastarache’s fourth album is a solid addition to an already impressive discography.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson