I was barely alive when Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars came out.

Ottawa's art-punk mavericks Wooden Stars with Julie Doiron, circa 1999. 

Ottawa's art-punk mavericks Wooden Stars with Julie Doiron, circa 1999. 

by Sacha KW

At first, I wasn’t sure why Arboretum would ask me to write a post about Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. My familiarity with Julie Doiron’s work, outside of a few songs, was limited. The target audience for an anniversary concert (which is happening August 21st at St. Alban’s church) isn’t one who has never listened to the performer before. On top of that, I was too young to have been aware of this album when it was released. I can imagine that listeners at the time couldn’t help but compare it to Doiron’s work with the seminal Eric’s Trip, who had quietly broken up for a first time only a couple of years earlier. My views on this record have to have been different than if I had heard it when it was originally released, back when the public’s memory of Julie Doiron’s former band was still fresh in their minds. I realized it could be a positive opportunity to listen to an acclaimed album without being affected by memory or questions of whether it will hold up fifteen years later. Julie Doiron & the Wooden Stars could also be garbage to me. I pressed play with an open mind.

Despite crazy, mega-industry competition, Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars won the 1999 Juno for best alternative album.

Despite crazy, mega-industry competition, Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars won the 1999 Juno for best alternative album.

This is what I was aware of beforehand: Julie Doiron is from Sackville, the Wooden Stars are from Ottawa, and every fan of her work is also a close personal friend of Doiron. Maybe that last thing isn’t true, but it sometimes seems to be. Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars is proof that the best records are accessible to those outside of a given scene. Several of its eleven songs encouraged immediate repeat on my laptop. Doiron makes an impression from the beginning with her droning repetition of the phrase “this will be the last time”. Another easy highlight is “Gone Gone”, which starts slow and spare until it eventually grows fuller and more compelling.

 

The first song I heard off this album was “The Longest Winter”, which I discovered at the end of last February. During a depressing phase in a seemingly endless winter, that track was almost too resonant to bear. Those three minutes proved to be more worthwhile in the summer, now that I know any given season will eventually pass. Like “The Longest Winter”, there’s no great drama to be found on “Drums + Horns”, just the kind of insights than can only be realized after time has passed. “Silence is good tonight/Better than the other night,” Doiron reflects.

The majority of these songs begin hazily then gradually become more focused, with percussion tightening and tempos quickening. I mostly listen to punk and garage, so what I found here was a change of pace. The goal of the album isn’t to overwhelm or be consistently catchy. As far as I can tell, Julie Doiron & the Wooden Stars were looking to inspire f e e l i n g s and keep the listener coming back for more. In that respect, Julie Doiron & the Wooden Stars is a success. It left me wanting to explore her catalogue and find songs that will stick with me like these ones. Fifteen years later, Julie Doiron can only be wiser, but this album is worthwhile just for insight into her outlook on life as of 1999. Since it’s new to me, I’ll have to wait and see if Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars is a keeper. I suspect it might be.  ∆∆∆

Sacha KW is a 16 year old music writer living in Ottawa. He likes jean jackets and warehouse make-outs. He may not break your heart, but he may run away with it. 

JULIE DOIRON & THE WOODEN STARS perform on Wednesday August 20th, at St. Alban's Church with Evening Hymns & Bosveld. 

Listen to the entire Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars album here