I’ve always had trouble explaining why I love Julie Doiron’s music so much, and now I have a whole page to cloud my case even further. I think it can be analogous to the way certain people can really wound you with the slightest of weapons (in fact, so slight that in anyone else’s hands, those ‘weapons’ would have no damaging capacities at all). And then there are certain people who can do very little and send you into a heady, can’t-make-the-ground-out spin. In the same way, Julie Doiron takes the tiniest musical arsenal – her mumbly, unclear voice and the odd guitar strum or sparse piano chord – and somehow gives it this slow-release nuclear capacity. That you don’t expect it makes it all the more of an emotional jolt.

OK, so some people say she’s boring (and I can see why they’d think that – there are no obvious emotional pyrotechnics, very rarely does she even raise her voice) but the fact she feels totally at ease with the need to never be showy just nails how note-exact and emotionally perfect her music is for me. (Also, her pics always show her as quite the dowd-meister, which has this reverse-intent hint of self-confidence and sexiness to me).

The first record of hers I bought was
Will You Still Love? in 1999, and its five spare songs just roped me in so entirely from the start. Her lyrics are always so unsure and are about tripping up over small things (but never so small, as we all know, like the hard unchangeable fact of missing someone). Sometimes they are too earnest and naff (one of her earliest songs – from Broken Girl – has a line about someone looking taller cos they’ve had a haircut). But the line that had always struck me is on Again Again, where she sings, so resignedly, so matter-of-factly, regret will never make it worse. That it’s tucked on a record with musings that are hardly self-confident, makes its spot-on observation all the more powerful (well, to me, anyway. It’s like how a funny moment is all the more so during a tragic film, so is a line of such clarity among such not-so-sure sentiments.) It’s always a bit high school to let your life be ruled by the philosophy of songs, but “regret will never make it worse” sure has saved me from many needless hairshirt and worrywart experiences.

Heart and Crime, her rendition of The One You Love differs very slightly from the Shanti Project Collection version (my sad completist status is on full-beam display here). Basically, she adds an impromptu laugh when she sings “it’s over”, and I love that this tiny, tiny screw-this-for-a-joke moment appears on a song that has lines like “Who needs a heart like mine?/Not you/Who needs a body like mine?/ Not you”. Yet the plain-as-plain way she sings it wipes it of insincere, prepackaged button-pushing. The way she underplays everything is what I like about her so much. I’m not a fan of music that pitches low self-esteem as its selling point, but Julie Doiron injects her moments of self-doubt with this genuine resonancy that you totally recognise, rather than coming across as something you feel arm-twisted or sob-storied into relating to.

It’s been a damn while since her last album though ...

Lee Tran Lam

Baby Spinach, October 2006