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Julie Doiron

Imagine Joni Mitchell on a blind date with Lou Barlow and you get close to the sound of Julie Doiron. While playing bass in the early '90s with Canadian indie darlings Eric's Trip, Doiron began writing her own acoustic solo songs. In 1996, the Montreal-based artist recorded her first solo album under the pseudonym Broken Girl. Loneliest in the Morning, released in 1997 under her own name, saw her working with indie glitterati like Howe Gelb (Giant Sand) and Dave Shouse (The Grifters) to develop her style of understated but direct minimalist pop.

In 1999, Doiron put out her heartbreaking, ethereal Will You Still Love Me? EP. Her third record, released in January 2000, combined her fragile songwriting with delicate and intricate structures of collaborators The Wooden Stars, a longtime Canadian experimental pop group. In 2001, the native Nova Scotian released the French-language record she'd always longed to make, titled Désormais. Once again, the uniquely stylized, spartan quality of Doiron's songwriting, singing, and guitar playing is on display here.

In 2002, the prolific singer-songwriter issued Heart and Crime, her fourth studio full-length. Anyone who knows Julie Doiron knows what to expect from this record, and Heart and Crime does not disappoint, offering the same naked, unpretentious compositions that made her earlier work so talked about. With her dark, stripped-down guitar figures and quivering barely enunciated soprano that sounds like she's singing to herself and no one else, Doiron touches your most vulnerable points. Other instruments -- a ghostly trumpet, laughing-sad harmonica, the faintest keyboard flourish -- sneak into her songs every so often, somehow making the yearning girl and her melancholy acoustic guitar sound still more alone.

Doiron has perfected her craft with these latest collections of songs so obviously taken straight from her heart. If you ever wished Joan of Arc and The Black Heart Procession were fronted by enigmatic female vocalists, this is what you're looking for.