JESSICA JALBERT, DOUG HOYER, COURIERS and DAZE DAZE & THE SIAMESE GAZE at Nocturne (550 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 24), 9 pm. $5. 416-504-2178. See listing.
The first song I ever heard by Edmonton dream-pop musician Jessica Jalbert was the melodic and mellow gem Lack Of A Lake. Climbing, clean guitar lines trade off with Jalbert's pretty, drawling vocals, the effect like end-of-summer sun on bare skin.
The guitar bits are so arresting - as is the publicity shot of Jalbert crouched down with her Strat, long hair obscuring her face, No Joy-style - that I can't help but imagine her as a devoted practitioner of the instrument, honing her craft at all hours of the day.
"I've been noodling around on guitars for about 10 years but I'm really no good," Jalbert says, quashing my fantasy. "When I play solo, I feel a bit more confident and can play slightly more intricately. But in full band situations I really just strum. Nothing special."
Turns out it's her bandmate Liam Trimble tackling the leads.
Nonetheless, Jalbert used the six-stringer to write and arrange the finely wrought songs on 2011's Brother Loyola (Old Ugly), the way-under-the-radar debut album she's touring across Canada for the first time (with co-headliner Doug Hoyer, who also plays bass in her band). Its dreamy haziness comes via her laid-back vocals, which never try too hard.
"Some of my favourite singers sing with very unaffected and unpolished voices," she says, "so it is a choice [I've made to deliver mine that way]. I think music translates best when the musicians are being completely honest. If I started singing in someone else's style, I don't know if anybody would believe me. I do what I can with who I am, I guess."
But while Brother Loyola delivers sunshiny warmth, it also has an underlying melancholy that's understood better after Jalbert explains what got her here. She started writing songs four years ago during a bout of loneliness and isolation brought on by a move across the country to a town where she didn't know anybody.
So now that she's back in the Edmonton music scene, which she describes as very supportive, is she stepping up her career efforts?
"I guess I've had musical aspirations for a long time," Jalbert says. "It's a scary thing to admit, because it's a pretty unpredictable career choice. It seems lofty, almost, to admit that I expect it to work out. But long before I started writing my own music, I assumed I'd be a musician in some form or another. Music is just exactly what I like."