Julie Doiron I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day

[Jagjaguwar; 2009]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: proto-grunge, singer-songwriter, lo-fi
Others: Eric’s Trip, early Cat Power, Jonathan Richman

At this point in her career, Julie Doiron has already long disproved F. Scott Fitzgerald's adage about there being no second acts in (North) American lives. Since the breakup of her ’90s lo-fi pop act Eric's Trip, Doiron has quietly built an unassuming, singular body of work. But her pace hasn't ever slowed; intentionally or not, she's positioned herself as an elder stateswoman of indie rock. Elder might be a cruel (even misogynist) qualifier for a woman shy of 40, but the maturity and levelheadedness of her work is indicative of an artist gaining perspective with age. With each passing album, Doiron seems to further refine the reoccurring themes of her work, to the point where each new album is arguably more relevant than the last.

Indeed, Doiron's latest album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day continues in this fashion. Although lacking the dramatic tension of last year's Mount Eerie collaboration Lost Wisdom, the album makes up for that loss with an understated, observational voice that commands attention through simplicity and unadornment. Nothing on the album is particularly complex or ambitious in the traditional sense. Rather than make broad statements about the nature of modern existence, Doiron takes an authorial approach, crafting brief but potent vignettes about bikes, minivans, and lovers walking through small towns. And despite the banality of the subject matter, Doiron displays a clear and tactile joy derived from these menial, daily details.

"Every day, every night/ Tell myself in this beautiful life/ That I'm glad to be alive" Doiron sings on the somewhat obviously-titled "Glad To Be Alive." It's a simple sentiment, but one that underlies the entire record. Doiron, though approaching middle-age, is — like Jonathan Richman — contrasting the mundanity and drabness of adult life with a youthful exuberance. The title of the album, as well as the artwork — comprised of drawings of costumed children — ties into the idea of growing old consciously. All adults are children at some point in time; growing older isn't a good enough excuse for giving up on yourself or your dreams or your secret lives.

I Can Wonder probably isn't Doiron's masterwork, though she doesn't seemed to be concerned with creating one. Ambition, as a social, artistic measure, is largely a masculine idea. Domestic realms, the kind that most of us inhabit, are often ignored (if not unexamined) in favor of more romantic, far-reaching pursuits. Doiron, with deftness and economy, makes our insignificant existences feel as worthy, as important as any daydream or delusion of grandeur. Observational abilities probably won't be enough to bring Doiron greater exposure, but it's hard to imagine that she'd even want that exposure. A life is a life and it's worth examining, worth celebrating, regardless of potential fame and fortune. "Our dreams are making us nice stories," Doiron sings, with unforced satisfaction. I Can Wonder proves that, nearly 20 years into her career, Doiron isn't any less restless than she was when she began it. As long as she continues to derive the same satisfaction from storytelling, it isn't difficult to imagine Doiron singing sweetly through the next few acts of her life.

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

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