On I Thought of You, Julie Doiron’s triumphant return is stunted by lackluster instrumentals

Julie Doiron

I Thought of You

You’ve Changed · November 26, 2021

Next time you inevitably find yourself talking with your favorite northern indie collective, don’t be surprised if the name Julie Doiron unlocks stories of creative sparks and introspective resonance. Perhaps best known for her vocal performances in Mount Eerie’s Lost Wisdom project and her early work as a founding member of Eric’s Trip, Julie Doiron has played a hand in some of the most influential indie-folk projects to date. While Doiron’s vocal delivery may be her most recognizable trait, to reduce Doiron’s artistic ability down to her velvety timbre would be a grave injustice to the songwriting seen throughout her solo career. 

I Thought of You comes after a near decade-long break from new solo music by Doiron. Now 49, she introduces her album with “You Gave Me the Key,” an upbeat track describing her reflections of the past and recent turning of a new leaf. The album’s closer “Back to the Water” stands in stark contrast to the opener, describing Doiron’s desire to return to the “water” and rediscover her roots. The conflicting messages presented throughout the album convey a vulnerable, unknowing state of being that is rarely seen in projects written 30+ years into one’s career. 

The album’s intimacy is complemented by Doiron’s choice of simple and oft-repetitive lyrics. As the title implies, Doiron frequently refers to the listener as “you,” granting her words enough power to reveal a nearly uncomfortable level of vulnerability, akin to that of reading a friend’s diary or unsent letters. In the title track “Thought of You,” Doiron reaches her self-endangering peak, apologizing and expressing shame for her past actions. The past remains an ever-looming motif throughout the album, as tracks like “Ran” depict Doiron exclaiming her newfound freedom after finally escaping the hold of an unsustainable connection.

While Doiron’s vocal performances mark a triumph of her career, the upbeat instrumentals and clean production remove some of the album’s potential for emotional impact. “I didn’t know just how much that I had lost / I didn’t realize just what I had done,” Doiron cries atop an instrumental not so dissimilar from the royalty-free country ballad one might expect to find in the background of a Cracker Barrel commercial. These instrumentals can often feel uninspired and pale in comparison to some of the grittier, more expressive tones found in Doiron’s work with Eric’s Trip or Julie & the Wrong Guys. This stale performance is not without its exceptions, however. In her title track “Thought of You,” choruses stand out as instrumentals transform into dreamy pools of reverb and harmony that accompany Doiron’s voice in such a way that guarantees its listener chills. 

I Thought of You is evidence that Doiron has learned a lot in her last 30 years of music-making. Her lyrics and vocal performances consistently hit new emotional highs not yet heard before in her career. Doiron’s risk-free accompaniments, however, often combat the expressive direction many of these tracks so desperately desire. 

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