released: 2018-05-25 )
Desormais / Heart and Crime (Reissue)
The devastation in Julie Doiron's work creeps in unexpectedly. Both Desormais and Heart and Crime swell slowly - like the first inklings of a Polaroid developing, the unfurling tangle of smoke from a just-extinguished candle, or the way a sky patiently burns red before slipping into nighttime. Equal parts unassuming and moving, these early solo records from Doiron simmer with an emotional reckoning, delivered as a sigh instead of a howl.
Doiron's music career began in 1990 at age 18, when she became the bassist and a founding member of Canadian four-piece Eric's Trip. The Moncton, New Brunswick band lived at the intersection of grunge and dreaminess. By 1996, Eric's Trip had released three records of pop-dissonance on Sub Pop, toured extensively, and broken up. Doiron's subsequent solo career – initially released under the moniker of "Broken Girl" – favored a sound that skewed sparser. Even so, her hushed, unassuming work drew significant attention; her self-titled 1999 LP recorded in collaboration with the Wooden Stars won the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.
But Desormais, originally released via Jagjaguwar in 2001, marked a departure: the intimate record is sung almost entirely in French. Across Desormais' ten tracks Doiron builds a disarming and warm atmosphere - through sparse, minimally-composed fingerpicking, Doiron's soft voice steers a wounded sound. "I don't need to wake up dreaming of this," she breathes on the opening line of "Don't Ask," the lone track sung in English. It's both striking and simple. But even for the English-speaking listener, the cohesion of the LP's subdued, immersive atmosphere looms. Desormais clearly communicates a close, unflinching look at self-doubt submerged in melancholy.
Heart and Crime, released less than a year later in 2002, traverses much of the same territory. Written within the same time as Desormais, Heart and Crime is a companion to its predecessor, similarly vulnerable and scarce compositionally, save for flickers of brass or a piano line flitting in or out. Again, its weight comes from its somber simplicity, in Doiron's wistful voice and lyricism.
Both albums represent an emotional, tumultuous time for Doiron at her young age. The work touched upon her insecurities as a mother, partner, and lover, and as a human, and trying to find meaning in that disappointment. The LPs bloomed from a time where she had so much to say and lingering fears around expressing it, so the expansive exploration instead manifested as a whisper.
"I feel that these albums still had an innocence that I can barely recall in my life now," Doiron says now.
As much as Doiron's Desormais and Heart and Crime serve as visceral time capsules for Doiron's own personal history, the records are also distinct placeholders within the Jagjaguwar canon. Desormais and Heart and Crime came at a time just as the label began to widen its scope. Doiron's work was amongst the first in a new era of Jagjaguwar artists that expanded the label's roster and aesthetic, ushering in new and diverse definitions of Jagjaguwar's early dedication to emotional dissonance.
And Doiron does address emotion head-on, although its prodded at discreetly. In wading through all of those feelings, she admits she decisively sought out to be as quiet as she could be with her music. Desormais and Heart and Crime, Julie Doiron's sister albums, are unprecedented studies in uncertainty being cradled lovingly, of the stark, moving power found in gentleness and vulnerability.
The annals of Jagjaguwar have most unfortunately left a lot of cherished albums and projects from our catalogue long out of print on wax. Others are in need of a first-ever, proper vinyl pressing. The Jagjaguwar Reissue Series seeks to right these wrongs. The cornerstone alumni and albums upon which the House of Jag today stands can now reach new hearts and minds wherever turntables keep turning. ʇ