Julie Doiron – Desormais

Julie Doiron

Coming off a decade of critical acclaim, both for her work as a member of experimental rockers Eric’s Trip and her own stripped-down solo work, Julie Doiron has established enough credibility in the singer-songwriter realm to be able to tackle just about any project she’d like. Last year’s collaboration with the Wooden Stars made for a perfect example of an artist using her status to forge a successful collaboration with like-minded artists to bring out another dimension of her songcraft. And while many artists would probably use that freedom to tackle another genre or recast their sounds in some sort of ambient sound collage project, Julie Doiron is making new music more-or-less in the same vein as her previous solo recordings – except now she’s doing them in French.
It might seem like a strange choice, alienating potential converts by throwing up a language barrier while not giving old fans anything drastically new to keep them interested, but Julie Doiron doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in playing to expectations. Nor should she, her instinctual feel for distinctively fragile avant-pop has never come into question, and Desormais is further evidence of that mastery, whether you can understand a word of it or not. That’s not to say that the language problem isn’t at least somewhat off-putting, as her lyrical strengths were always part of the attraction of her songwriting, but to the mono-linguist, her soft breathy voice simply becomes another element in the dreamy mix.
Gorgeously restrained from the first moments of “Ce Charmant Coeur,” the album unwinds at a deliberate pace, drifting through naked arrangements of softly picked electric and classical guitar, sparse drumming, soft harmonies, organs, and numerous underlying electronic effects. “Tu Es Malades” sets atop lullabyish electric guitar lines, with swelling piano rising from the background and violin-like samples fluttering underneath. Somewhat skeletal, the arrangements nonetheless hold up under barely submerged emotional weight implicit in the delivery. Certainly, few of the songs have hooks that will worm their way into you head on first listen, but the overall mood of the album is grasped almost immediately.
Guitar parts are rather simply rendered, playing the same lines repeatedly or strummed at regularly spaced out intervals, imperceptibly enveloped by organs, pianos, and samples. Beautifully layered tracks, such as “Faites De Beaux Reves” and “La Jeune Amoureuse,” are perfectly rendered studies in hushed vulnerability, with Doiron’s pensive croon met with the gentle sway of cooing organs and tiptoeing vibes. Like hanging aural tapestries around a drafty apartment, these songs maintain an emotional distance yet are felt on a very intuitive level.
A perfect companion for a chilly fall afternoon, Desormais is drenched in the feelings of resignation and finality, almost as if bracing for the winter ahead. Reflective, yet somewhat detached, the album drifts away in a haze of languid guitar tones and barely lucid organic textures. Overall, it may not be enough to make you run out and sign up for a French class, but Doiron’s studied lo-fi pop generally needs no translation to communicate its meaning.