Is Julie Doiron’s Woke Myself Up just another indie-rock bore? Maybe. The album’s lazy mix of grainy vocals and stripped-down arrangements can drowse you faster than your 8:30 a.m. poetry lecture. With the thrown-together feel that pervades Woke Myself Up, it’s surprising to learn that Doiron’s been doing the music thing for a while.

She started her career in 1990 at 18 playing bass in the Canadian group Eric’s Trip. They became underground favorites before signing with Sub Pop and finding international recognition, touring widely. When the band split in 1996, Doiron began her solo career, releasing six full-length albums and two EPs through the years. Woke Myself Up is her seventh full-length album, a collaboration with former and founding Eric’s Trip bandmate Rick White.

The album is entirely intimate without sacrificing song-to-song distinctiveness. On each track, Doiron finds a new way to spell out “vulnerable” with differing tempos, keys and instrumentation. “Untitled” is remarkably introspective and restrained; “Don’t Wannabe / Liked by You” is gritty, grungy and distortion-drenched. These musical changes, though subtle, are engaging.

The lyrics, penned by Doiron herself, are unabashedly personal, through the common love-and-loss thread turns quickly from melancholic to melodramatic. On “The Wrong Guy,” slow-motion guitar twangs underline Doiron’s utter humiliation at a party. Opening her eyes “in horror,” she realizes she just kissed the wrong person with everyone watching. “Swan Pond,” a waltz in a minor key continues the emo half-whining as Doiron mumbles through the words, “Oh swan pond please set me free! / Hear my song and please bring him to me.”

What the album lacks is quality production. For someone who’s been in the biz for more than a decade, Doiron’s choice of a grainy, demo-like finish gives Woke Myself Up the sound of an unsure debut. This is especially apparent on “I Left Town.” The simplistic do-re-mi melody and tardy guitar strums bring out the worst of the raw feel, producing an amateur sound – a record of ideas scrawled on pieces of paper and recorded on a four-track in her bedroom.

Doiron’s creative range is evident. The album’s recurring themes of loss and love flow seamlessly between songs. Like a collection of diary excerpts, Doiron’s songs are open, emotional entries on relationships and their ups and downs, romantic and otherwise.

And like the rest of the Tegans and Saras of the indie underground, Woke Myself Up boasts careless production – intentional or not. A little polish on Doiron’s part would signal artistic growth, at least outwardly. It seems strange that a seasoned musician as Doiron would be content to continue on with the same lo-fi sound of her early-’90s stomping ground. But she’s already released six albums, and she seems OK with it.

Woke Myself Up
Julie Doiron

Rating:2 out of 5 stars

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