Julie Doiron | Woke Myself Up (Jagjaguwar)

cd_doironWith the absence of all of the musical distractions that songwriters frequently employ to support their lyrics, there's really little to talk about with Woke Myself Up other than the themes expressed.

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Doiron does not have a sticky back-story to pad her press packet. She does not possess an especially powerful voice. Her arrangements are unadorned, bare-boned affairs. So what gives this Canadian songwriter her following? It's her command of the confessional song, her ability to convey her humanity without needless verbosity or dramatics. That being said, it certainly doesn't hurt that she's the ex-bassist of cult group Eric's Trip, whose other members make an unofficial reunion on three of the tracks found on Woke Myself Up.

Truthfully, I'm probably well outside of the target demographic for this album; thirty-something mother/singer Doiron reflects on love, loss, and missed chances. With the absence of all of the musical distractions that songwriters frequently employ to support their lyrics, there's really little to talk about with Woke Myself Up other than the themes expressed. Doiron conceptualized this collection of songs as two unique halves: the first basking contentedly in the joys of love and family, and the second wallowing in the murkier concerns of self-doubt and failed relationships. Two guesses as to which side produces more captivating lyrics. Hint: it sure ain't the half with the song about appreciating your children.

One of the highlights of the album's "dark" side, "Don't Wanna Be/Liked By You" rollicks with a surprising verve. It's a terse kiss-off to elitists everywhere (including this reviewer, possibly), and even throws in a dash of nihilism for good measure: "‘Cause Greenland is melting and we're all screwed anyway!" See, that's a sentiment I can get behind! Elsewhere, "Me and My Friend" deftly re-imagines the imagery of Side 1 track "Swan Pond," deepening the shadows of that once idyllic setting as Doiron reflects on a dead friendship. And then there's the album's untitled final track, an almost too-direct rumination on past failures. "I've lost at this game of life," croaks Doiron, undoubtedly causing more than a few listeners to back slowly and nervously away from their speakers at home.

But for all of these revealing lyrical moments—and yes, there are a few on the first half, too—there's just not enough going on instrumentally to really make this a well-rounded record. Even the tracks with the old Eric's Trip lineup fail to get up and do much of anything, other than sound relatively competent. The frank intimacy that provides Doiron her artistic impact unfortunately also makes Woke Myself Up a fairly undistinguished listen. Clocking in at just under half an hour, the album feels incomplete, more of a sketch of Doiron's state of mind than a thorough portrait. Given Doiron's extensive back catalog (six LPs, two EPs), you might want to explore the archives a bit before giving her latest a spin. C- | Jeremy Goldmeier

RIYL: Cat Power, The Breeders' Title TK

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