Julie Doiron‘s voice and instrumental talent likely appears on many of your favorite indie albums of the past 30 years. She’s also a featured player on just as many albums that simply haven’t become your favorite indie records yet. She co-founded celebrated Canadian lo-fi group Eric’s Trip, released two full-length collaborations with Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum, a split with Okkervil River, and delivered 10 full-length records as a solo artist, one of which—2000’s Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars—earned her a Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year. She’s prolific, certainly, but it’s not the volume of her songwriting that’s noteworthy so much as her innate ability to make compelling narratives of the everyday and the understated, all of her greatest moments turning quiet moments into subtly captivating drama, often accompanied by gorgeously nuanced arrangements.
That’s only partially true on I Thought of You, her first solo LP since 2012’s So Many Days. Her songwriting enchants as ever—that much hasn’t changed—but the prevailing mode on I Thought of You isn’t necessarily one of understatement. “You Gave Me the Key” kicks off the album not with the stark minimalism of her earlier recordings but with a rich and fuzzy rock song with grit and a grin, juxtaposing slide riffs against exclamatory declarations like “Here I am/starting over again.” And in a sense, it does feel like a refresh—Doiron’s solo return after a series of collaborative projects finding her tapping into a more pronounced sense of urgency and raggedness.
Though I Thought of You bears Doiron’s name alone, it’s a collaborative album of sorts with musicians Daniel Romano (a prolific artist in his own right), Ian Romano and Dany Placard. Acting as a proper band on these 13 songs, Doiron and company kick up some dust and get a little rowdy, which paired with her warmly smoky voice turns a song like “Thought of You” from a more intimate confession about a one-sided relationship into something that feels more like the badass score to a fraught internal monologue. Throughout, I Thought of You is pocked with similarly dazzling moments, like the fuzzy power-pop of “Cancel the Party,” the achingly soulful breakup ballad “How Can We,” or the droning psychedelia of “Just When I Thought.” Her sense of melody and charmingly intimate focus haven’t changed, but they’ve been given the gift of kickass.
The sheer electricity of these songs is almost enough to distract from the sadness at the core of many of them, like how she opens the gorgeous “Dreamed I Was” by singing, “This morning, I dreamed I was happy.” But what follows the ache is often a determination to end up somewhere better; in “Darkness to Light,” Doiron even gets comfortable with the idea of enduring happiness, closing out the track by singing, “I’m dancing in the light and it’s begging me to stay.” Not all of I Thought of You is a celebration, but the energy and urgency of the music makes the idea of getting there seem even closer within reach.
Label: You’ve Changed
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.