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Basia Bulat: 'In the Night' a Breezy Joy

It's hard to get a handle on Basia Bulat's beguiling debut single "In the Night," in part because her words and intentions can be difficult to discern and in part because the song's arrangement springs from about 50 years' worth of pop music at once. What's easier to suss out is that this is one of 2008's great singles — a criminally under-appreciated gem that deserves acknowledgement alongside the best of Amy Winehouse, not to mention far ahead of the track Leona Lewis has been flogging at the top of the pop charts for the past month.

Unabashedly cheerful, "In the Night" is a perfect slab of shimmering girl-group pop, but it's no mere throwback gimmick. A young singer-songwriter from Toronto, Bulat invests the track with graceful effervescence and an innate understanding of momentum. Adding breezy little joys along the way — an increasingly layered chorus, the introduction of a clanging piano, subtly soaring background vocals — "In the Night" wraps up in exactly three perfect minutes. The only way to improve on it is to play it again.

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This story originally ran on May 13, 2008.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)