Julie Doiron – I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day

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Julie Doiron – I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day (Jagjaguwar Records; released March 10th, 2009)

Stumbling upon great music by accident is one of the reasons I love doing this- I get to listen to records and then write about how it makes me feel. Julie Doiron‘s last collaboration, with Phil Elverum‘s (of now-defunct The Microphones) Lost Wisdom was as touching and heartfelt an album I heard all last year- but that’s expected from Mount Eerie. So stumbling upon Julie‘s work has been a nice surprise.

Doiron was one-third of Eric’s Trip, the critically acclaimed band signed to SubPop in the early nineties. She’s done a fair amount of solo work since the dissolution of her former band, still working with them occasionally; as well as bands likeĀ Okkervil River. So how have I never heard of her until last year?

Well, for starters; she’s Canadian. Which lately has been a good thing, but it’s easy to be obscured because of the amount of awesome talent coming from up north. She’s won a Juno Award (the Canuck equivalent of a Grammy) for her 1999 album Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars, so she’s got street cred. But American audiences are fickle, and we’ve overlooked her for artists like Feist and Nelly Furtado (don’t even get me started on Alanis Morrissette, Shania Twain or Celine Dion; that’d be like shooting fish in a barrel.)

All insults aside, Miss Doiron‘s latest offering is a solid collection of bare bones pop, hearkening back to what you’d find on Eric’s Trip albums; she’s saved a part of an old formula that worked quite well for them and continues to almost twenty years later. A guitar awash in heavy distortion, a bass, some drums; what else do you need?

The album’s single Consolation Prize is a perfect slice of this formula- monotone vocals over a Weezer-esque driving rhythm, with a nice “noise” solo in the middle, a car crash sample; and it’s all over in two minutes. A perfect little pop song.

The album opens with the soft acoustic ballad The Life Of Dreams, which sounds like it was recorded outside (with birds chirping), which didn’t prepare me for the second track, Spill Yer Lungs– it’s actually some really heavy, slow-core, sludgy fuzz grunge anthem.

Heavy Snow sounds just like that- it starts soft like the first few fallen flakes, then before you know it you’re breaking your freaking back trying to shovel the slush. Nice To Come Home is her ode to domestic bliss; coming home from being out in that snow, wondering what he did with his day. She briefly visits her Acadian roots with Je Le Savais, French for “I knew it”. It’s one of the few songs that uses an instrument besides bass/drums/guitar- as does When Brakes Get Wet, a drum machine this time, with a beat that pans from left-to-right speakers; I should add that the production for this album is excellent, it isn’t as dense as most conventional pop albums, but it gets the most out of the spare parts that assemble it.

Blue is the one standout song where Julie shows her wonderful voice; she’s double-tracked for the chorus, a simple “I’m blue-ooooh-ooooooh” that carries her upward into the ether, coming back down for the next verse. It’s as delicate and dense as a song without drums can be; all cloudy and murky atmospherics.

The album closes out on Julie andthe formless, acoustic-picked Glad To Be Alive; a life affirming ditty that revisits her domesticated bliss. For all the juxtaposed ballads and suffocating heaviness, there’s a musical continuity here that works well; cutesy one jam, sad the next, down home fingerpicking then in your face wall of guitar drone- Julie Doiron‘s I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day is as fine a collection of dreamy pop you will find anywhere.

I just hope I don’t have to wait for it to cross the border to find me…

Tracklisting:

  1. Life of Dreams
  2. Spill Yer Lungs
  3. Lovers of the World
  4. Tailor
  5. Heavy Snow
  6. Nice to Come Home
  7. Consolation Prize
  8. Je le savais
  9. When Brakes Get Wet
  10. Borrowed Minivans
  11. Blue
  12. Glad to Be Alive


Julie Doiron