[19 October 2004]
Folks, it’s time to steel yourself to reality: summer is over. Right now, in locales across the continent, the humidity is clinging desperately to the ground in its unending competition with the heat over which is worse. The summer’s #1 party jams are trying to convince you that they’re worth replaying after August. But it’s all in vain. Geese will fly. School will start. Frost will indeed be on the pumpkin. To usher in cooler temps there may be no better song than Julie Doiron’s “Snow Falls In November”, which opens her latest, Goodnight Nobody. The song begins gently, each instrument separate and distinct in the mix. Over five minutes the music builds in energy without speeding up, and the effect is not unlike watching a few isolated snowflakes accumulate into a flurry.
November also figures into other songs on the record. On the brief but beguiling “Tonight is No Night” I could’ve sworn I heard Doiron sing the word, though it’s nowhere to be found on the lyric sheet. “Tonight is no night for romance / The bus will be leaving soon / . . . and I don’t know when I’ll be coming back.” The song is as chilly and sad as the month, the only hints of warmth dissipating as her syllables trail off into the mix. I feel like a big cheater comparing Doiron’s voice to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, but the similarities are hard to ignore. Not to disparage Ms. Marshall but Doiron’s voice carries a bit less self-conscious pathos. It’s frayed around the edges, and can transition from sweet to piercing just as quickly, but Doiron invests a greater stake in serving the melody. So when she sings on “Dirty Feet”, “God bless the workers / I wish I was one”, the emotion is inherent in the notes she chooses to sing, not only the earnestness of her delivery.
Doiron has an unfathomable knack for using simple, straightforward language without being trite. No olbique references or contrived metaphors are employed or needed. “When I Awoke” starts off as a typical narcotized “slow-core” plodder before shifting into a lovely circular guitar picking pattern when the drums kick in. The central lyrical idea is blunt: “You were gone / When I awoke”, but the atmosphere conjured is powerful enough to complete the picture.
I suppose this attention to craft is to be expected from her years as the bassist for Eric’s Trip and several solo albums for Sub Pop, and now her new home at Jagjaguwar. Her first solo output was released under the name “Broken Girl” but I’m glad it didn’t stick. Goodnight Nobody seems more about asking questions about life than falling apart because of it. “Dance All Night” puts it plainly but effectively: “I’ve just remembered everyone I’ve ever loved / Every song I’ve sung / Everyone who’s made me smile / And what I want to know now is what do I do now?” Her own “Last Night” might provide the answer: “Tomorrow I’ll be on a stage and / I will close my eyes in front of all the people / I will close my eyes thinking of you”. This is the right time of year for that kind of reflection. The sunlight gets less and less direct, the nights longer, and the lonesome feeling that’s been on vacation for three months comes home to roost. I always find accompaniment like Goodnight Nobody to be comforting. After all, as she sings on “Banjo”, “When we meet again / I will light your life / And when we touch again / Time might stop”.