Pandemic-era art has given us a shortcut for collective experience – sourdough entrees, whipped coffee, platoons, loneliness, confinement, boredom. Over time, embraced by enough of those who are bored and lonely, repetition strips away emotional texture until those signifiers feel flat and impersonal. Canadian indie stalwarts Julie Doiron and Dany Placard’s Julie and Danny, recorded in their New Brunswick home during the mandatory isolation of neighboring Quebec, embraces the lofty goal of infusing staid with new meaning. These loose, unvarnished tracks, evoking the pair’s previous work in bands like Eric’s Trip and Plywood, penetrate the post-traumatic haze with sharp, shrill insight.
When life’s parameters shrink to the size of a house, the well of inspiration also shrinks, but Doiron and Placard sift through the servant like expert miners. The opener “Thaws” plunges us into the loop of their routine after a humanizing false start in the opening seconds. As the song begins, so do we – getting some fresh air, dancing lifelessly in the kitchen, planting flowers to ward off creeping fear. The specificity makes this rhythmic and harmonized song – a chorus that roughly translates to “I’m going outside to get some air” and later, “The earth must thaw” – all the more convincing and courageous as the guitars charge like someone determined not to. thinking too hard or too much.
“Lying,” two songs later, is when reality catches up—the grief, the fear of an unknown future—and its simple, incantatory lyrics float over Doiron’s plaintive voice. Intimacy might be a natural consequence of these housebound songs, written by two people living together during a crisis, and the use of regional phrases like “Chu” (“I am”) instead of the formal French “I am ” (also “I am”) gives it even more charm: we are close, sharing internal monologues and mayonnaise from the nearby refrigerator. With this diction, the duo further anchors the record not only to a particular (bad) year, but also to a particular place, a particular lens through which to view the world.
At Julie and Dany’s experiments with scale degrees are another nifty way to make sure the disk expands beyond its physical limits. Where “Lying” and “Venus” are soft and introverted, “Jean-Talon Market” opts for explosive and electric riffs, “Heroes” by David Bowie with the grit and carelessness of a song by Liz Phair. “Tomate” cuts through muddy guitars and bar vocals, imbuing the tomato plantation with impending danger. This nimble back and forth between challenge and defeat means nothing becomes stale: sounds and feelings range from big and wide to huddled in a corner, whispering into a microphone, a polarity that rings true to experience. lived.