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

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Artist: Julie Doiron

Album: I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Mar. 9, 2009

Julie Doiron is living a happy life now, at least happier than most of her solo career would lead you to believe. “I’ve started to love life most of the time,” she says in anticipation of her latest, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day. It certainly shows; this collection of songs straddles the line between cloying twee, exuberantly noisy indie-pop, and a K Records/Plan-It-X childish naïveté that has been all but absent from most of Doiron’s solo work.

Maybe it’s a bit sadistic to ask her to sing from the small amount of time when she doesn’t love life, but it certainly seems to have made for something stronger in the past. Last year’s collaboration with Phil Elverum on Lost Wisdom was her strongest work in years, filled with intimately personal songs about the world’s difficulties that were universally resonant. It’s not that songs like “Voice in Headphones” were depressing and dark, but that they directly confronted alienation and the hard world. There was something triumphant in Doiron’s exorcism of ghosts in “Who?” that makes her work on that record stand out from an already deep career.

On I Can Wonder, the exorcism is not only complete, it’s long gone. The album starts off with her waxing about living “The Life of Dreams,” and half an hour later it ends with a prayer of thanksgiving, “Glad to Be Alive.” In between is a laundry list of things that are good: lovers, minivans, heavy snow, coming home, guitars, taking off coats, little lamps, sitting down, wet brakes, and on and on. The album is a paean to the good life, a deep exhale after years of singing about personal demons, now moved past with a personal inventory of the little things that make life worth living.

Happy enough, but somewhat frivolous. It’s still a hard world out there, no matter the small pleasures of Doiron’s life. The disconnect between the general zeitgeist and her own surroundings is palpable, made all the more apparent by her happiness index’s superficiality. Her anecdotal observations in the past derived their strength from going past the surface to address the heart of the matter, be it alienation, loneliness, mistaken identity, or anything else. Now, the concern has shifted from the human condition to her immediate condition. It makes for pretty enough music, but songs like “Borrowed Minivans” and “Nice to Come Home” fail to address what happiness is, at least not the way that Heart and Crime and Lost Wisdom confronted the darker sides of her soul.

It’s not all hopeful, though, and there’s hope in that. “Spill Yer Lungs” and “Consolation Prize” both bristle with unnerving electricity as they confront insecurity about the past, and the resulting present and future. And “Blue,” coming right before “Glad to Be Alive,” casts a wavering shadow of doubt on all these material goods, suggesting that no matter how happy the external situation, you can never escape what lurks inside. It’s also one of the strongest songs, avoiding the Eric’s Trip rehash that dominates most of the album in favor of developing the disjointed western sound that she does so much better.

By Evan Hanlon

Other Reviews of Julie Doiron

Goodnight Nobody

Woke Myself Up

Loneliest in the Morning

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Find out more about Jagjaguwar

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