DON'T TAKE IT BACK
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Julie Doiron - "The Wrong Guy" (Julie Doiron/Okkervil River EP version [2003])
Julie Doiron - "The Wrong Guy" (Woke Myself Up version [2007])

Julie Doiron is an artist whose work trades on two feelings: love, and sadness. Like Herman Dune (with whom she has recorded), she is a francophone who sings mostly in english. Unlike Herman Dune there is no silliness in the lilt of her language. Her english is fluent & ordinary. But there remains the ghosting of any second language, something that translates into her songs as care, consideration, pause. Pauses fill her music - silences lingering in rooms, words lingering on lips, fingers lingering on the hot strings of an electric guitar. Choruses are unwilling. Her lyrics appear one by one, like flat stones set on a table.

It's not a very catchy music, and outside of her work with Herman Dune, The Wooden Stars or Eric's Trip, it lacks any real instrumental sparkle. Unlike with Cat Power or Songs:Ohia, her voice doesn't feel like the manifestation of a platonic misery: a throat finally expressing what sadness feels like. No, what makes Julie Doiron among my favourite artists is the feeling of honesty in her songs. For those of us who value this (the impression that an artist "really means it"), Doiron is extraordinary. She does not say too much, or too little. She sings with great care. And she always seems to be telling the truth.

And so her love-songs (particularly in french, on Desormais) are breathtaking: rose-and-dusk pleasures strung together on a melody. Her songs of heartbreak or indecision resonate long, long, long, when played on the right afternoons. And the songs that began to appear in the past four years or so, songs of motherhood & children & family, they are so unadorned in their sweetness that it's very hard not to, well, melt.

For those of us who have followed Julie Doiron over these years, her new album - Woke Myself Up - is an excellent one, among her very best. And it's also devastating.

Less than half of the record is happy songs of the domestic: kids and swan-ponds, weeding and long drives. The rest is about the end of love, the breakdown of love, questions & doubts & occasional certainties. The collapse of a marriage, of that same love we heard toasted on "Ce charmant coeur". These are feelings that were touched on with 2005's Goodnight Nobody, but not like this. The final, untitled track - which, the press materials say, was added at the last minute, - is to me just ridiculously sad, personally sad, the kind of song I wish nobody ever had to write. ("And all those songs that I sung / well now I know they were wrong / and now I'm taking them all back.")

But if you're new to (or have never been convinced by) Julie Doiron, that song is not the best illustration of why she is great. (Without context it feels too casual, too pretty.) Instead, here are two recordings of another unhappy song - "The Wrong Guy". Taken together, they are a perfect manifestation of Doiron's unvarnished music: the same song, two or three years apart. Each one sung true, and different.

On the Split version (which doesn't feature any members of Okkervil River, before you get excited), it is her and a guitar, slow, still in mourning for the realisation that "he was the wrong guy".

On the new version, Doiron is less delicate. She is almost wry as she sings - describing a kiss, he-and-she, with a bitter humour. Years later, she doesn't feel the same way about her mistake. And now her old band, Eric's Trip, is here to be loud - guitars and drums and distortion, a noise of the inevitable, the past, the tragic. She is not for a moment sorry for herself. But she wonders at how easy it is for us to make such vast mistakes.

[buy Woke Myself Up]
(previously)

---

Oh dear, a major RIP to Arthur magazine.

Posted by Sean at February 26, 2007 7:58 AM
Comments

"She does not say too much, or too little. She sings with great care. And she always seems to be telling the truth."

It is wonderful to hear someone articulate exactly how you feel about an artist (but have had no one to tell it to even if you could articulate it) so well. Cheers.

Posted by g00blar at March 3, 2007 10:21 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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