Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars
Reviewed by Aaron Shuman
Monday, November 15 1999, 7:02 PM
This album reminds me of Codeine's Frigid Stars, which fans are known to cling to and suck on as if it were a beloved stuffed animal or fuzzy blanket. Lacking both at one point, I sucked Codeine as if it were an icicle, yielding a delicious hurt I'd rather renew than relinquish, and an anaesthetic which helps but should not be confused with healing. Former Eric's Trip member and Codeine Sub Pop labelmate Julie Doiron crosses similar territory but finds something beautiful and new.
To Codeine's understated pop, Doiron and the Wooden Stars add complications. First, there is Doiron's voice, the sweetness and rasp of which invest sparse lines with multiple meanings. Like a good blues singer, for Doiron there is no statement beyond qualification, no line that cannot be flattened or sharpened, and she takes all the time she needs to work the changes. The Wooden Stars frame her without boxing her in. From the light waltzing lilt of "Au Contraire" to the country slide of "The Second Time Sweeter," they open the limited terrain of mope pop to fresh sounds, while "The Best Thing for Me" shows them unafraid to rock.
The merits of nuance are best revealed on "Seven," where Doiron's promise "kiss me, kiss me; you won't have to think no more" becomes "tell me you are lonely, and I want to be with you." She repeats "tell me you are lonely," but where most would add "too" to falsely resolve the line, Doiron pauses. The low-rising chorus of 'aahs' that follows is the only resolution we ever want or need. By restoring space and choices to a tired genre, Doiron and Stars make the kisses to be found there especially sweet.
Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars is a Tree Records release.