Julie Doiron

Goodnight Nobody

(Jagjaguwar/Endearing; 2004)

By Aaron Newell | 27 October 2004

When was the last time you were moved by a meandering, but pleasant, live jam-folk recording just because the singer mentioned “kids in snowpants?" On Goodnight Nobody, Doiron plays all the singer/songwriter safe hands: she’s missing her loved ones while on the road (Mirah); she’s watching snow fall outside her window (Hayden); she’s apologetic (everyone), she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be back again (Cat Power); and she wants hope to run free (I’m sure Dylan said that somewhere). But while she’s trying on everyone else’s worn slippers, she also manages to be convincingly and charmingly personal.

The listener gets Julie Doiron as "everyone else," but that "everyone else" is also sometimes the listener, and, as such, Goodnight Nobody fools us into liking it despite its flaws. And, plus, sometimes the music is real pretty, too.

On “Snow Falls in November,” Julie is colloquially loving her guy while the window ices up. No big deal at first glance, but some touching pieces of Canadiana surface through the frost: the kids in snowpants, the dark mornings, the general fear-of-winter that November brings on, and the joys of staying indoors all day, doing nothing with the guy/girl you’re loving in order to combat that fear. This song, like seven of the twelve on Goodnight Nobody, was recorded live, and produces an even-more personal quality--a resonating first-handness. The perfectly imperfect harmonies, the gentle plodding drums and unintentionally rattling tambourine, the supporting mandolin and lazy guitars all create a cushy fireplace log-cabin glaze. “We don’t go nowhere, not today, not tonight / Stay here ‘til November is through.” Been there, Jules.

“Last Night” is a little bluesier, boasts some sweetly scatting guitar picking, and more of the same plodding percussion. Doiron’s full-but-faltering vocals fit the feel, and the piece comes off pleasingly tight given its “live” status. The story is one we’ve heard before (“Last night I held you in my arms and started to cry / Today I fly across the Ocean and will be gone 20 days”) but nobody minds, because the feel of the song lends it an air of sincerity that transcends its traditional subject matter. Similarly, “No Money Makers” is a poetic retread of the welcome formula, and “Tonight Is No Night,” one of the few studio tracks, features strings of all kinds--cello reigning above all--and is short, clumsy, and sweet.

But there’s a difference between staying in on purpose and being snowed in, in the dark. “Dirty Feet” and “Dance All Night” fail to lure any listener affection, and come off cold in all the wrong ways---I can hardly recall any details now thirty seconds after listening. “The Songwriter” is by far the rawkiest piece on the record and takes a minute to warm up--bordering on roadhouse at certain points, but wins us over by its end despite Doiron’s rare vocal failings.

The overarching melancholy begins to weigh down the record at the end, and we ironically find ourselves yearning for more Novembers by the album’s final quarter. “Banjo” is enjoyable for half of its length but should have been edited. “Goodnight," the dark instrumental closer, doesn’t seem to fit juxtaposed next to the levity of “Banjo," and fails to go anywhere near its promise. The guitars strum forever until punctuated by approximately five different percussion hits before completely fading out. It's anti-climactic, and somewhat disappointing for such a strong start.

Goodnight Nobody settles in with moments of brilliance and unplanned perfection but gradually peters out as the mood gets heavier through the album’s progression. Play this one on white, restless Sunday mornings while you make coffee and breakfast in bed. Then hop back in bed and refocus your attentions before the mood is lost.