As you all know, Juliana Hatfield is my favorite female performer. She's made such an impact on my life, that I named my only daughter after her. I've seen her more times than I can remember and have had the pleasure of meeting her once. She's an amazing musician and a multitalented artist. I try to spread her music to as many people as will listen and I try and support her when I can. When I heard that she had a new album on the way, I got excited to see what she would be doing next in her career. Well, the day finally arrived that it was released and I downloaded my pre-release digital copy right away. Funny thing is, I couldn't bring myself to listen to it until I had the actual hard copy of the CD in my hand.... that finally happened today. I'd love it if you'd all fall in love with her music as much as I have, but that's unrealistic. Instead, I hope that with whatever positive energy I can send her way and any new listeners I can find, it will help her to continue to make music. It's just that simple.
The album runs 50 mins 36 secs and contains 14 songs. It's another full band record, meaning it's not just her and an acoustic guitar.... which was basically her last album 'Peace and Love'. Along with the songs contained here, she's also made the demos available on her website to download on a 'pay what you want' basis. I always recommend checking those out too. It helps to kind of understand the artistic process and a lot of times it gives you even more music to enjoy! Below is the track listing in order, with thoughts on each song:
1. Change The World - The opening song to the album opens with a quiet meditation. It reminded me, as soon as it started, of sitting on a rooftop in Chicago at dusk, with a light cool breeze and daydreaming about life and what's gone and yet to come. It's an interesting way to start an album. Rather than go for the powerhouse opening, it sets a different tone for what you're about to hear. An amazing first song.
2. Taxicab - A much more upbeat song and one with a fantastic guitar riff leading the way. It seems that Juliana has taken a more clean approach to her vocals. There is very little done to them and it creates a nice live or living room feel and let's us (the listener) enjoy it for what it is. 'Taxicab' kind of lives up to it's suggestion of a driving song. I could see listening to this while cruising down the road with the windows down.
3. Don't Wanna Dance - From the very first sound of the solo guitar playing, you get the sense of why you love her music in the first place. This song has a bit of a throwback feel to previous outings and that's not a bad thing. It actually gives an automatic recognition to the song. There's some fun vocalizations on this tune and it's damn catchy.... one that'll stick in your head if you're not careful. I could hear her having fun recording this one. A standout track for me on the album.
4. There's Always Another Girl - By the title alone, you can assume this'll be a song with a slow burn. The lyrics hit me in the gut right away. Juliana has written a song full of truth. 'There's Always Another Girl' will leave an impression on you and you'll want to go back and re-listen to make sure you heard every word she uttered. "Don't you love it when a beautiful woman self destructs?"
5. Candy Wrappers - Something that has given Juliana a strong fan base and longevity, is her ability to try new things and not be afraid to be brave. Every album of her's is different. 'Made in China' is completely different than 'Peace and Love'. This song is yet another example of her branching out. To some it may seem like she's looking for her voice. For me, I see it as this is her voice that we're hearing and it's loud and clear. I've heard this song listed as a fan favorite and I can see why.... it's catchy and hooky, but no one ever said Juliana couldn't write a great pop song.
6. Someone Else's Problem - Echoing vocals open this track and it gives me shivers for some reason. This sounds like a track from 'God's Foot' to me. I wonder sometimes how she decides on what effects to use and when to use them. This song blends several effects and sets a slightly different tone than the others songs did. But all of the things she incorperates works like a charm. This one is slowly taking on a favorite song status for me.
7. Sex And Drugs - Another fan favorite, from what I've read about the album. This would be a great one to see live. I can see the audience eating up singing along. What I love about this song is, not only the music, but the lyrics. Listen to them and see if you don't agree.... although the music is pretty damn great too.
8. Stray Kids - Blake Babies anyone? It takes me back to the songwriting from that era of her life. That quickly fades as the chorus kicks in. This is modern Juliana Hatfield. An artist at the peak of her form. Oh and it ends in such a way that you'll want to reply it again right away.
9. Failure - This is one of those songs that as soon as it started, I knew I was going to love it. The chorus, with the blending of the guitars, creates a nostalic mood for something that has yet to even happen. I don't know if that makes sense? But I find that certain sounds, smells and times of day create a certain sense of nostalgia, even if they have no direct tie to something in your past. It's just something about those things that lends themselves to that emotional response. This is one of those songs.
10. Vagabond - Sometimes, you need to slow things down and take your time with the simple things. Some artists aren't afraid to do things at a reduced pace and Juliana is one of them. It's not always about how catchy the hook is or if the song is under three minutes to hold the listeners attention. Sometimes, it's just about the song, the music and the moment. I'm thankful for songs like these. Before you get to comfotable in what you're hearing musically, rewind and focus on the lyrcs.
11. And Again - "In the arms of mother, you always have trouble sleeping. It never feels like heaven, it never seems like a sweet thing. And the night is long, you want to jump into the heart of a song." But wait, is that a song you've heard? Suddenly you're hearing the chorus to 'Candy Wrappers' and you realize what's just happened. Clever, clever indeed. This is 'And Again' the song 'Candy Wrappers' but done slightly differently.
12. Batteries - From the old school robot type sound, you wonder what lies ahead. Well, it's not exactly a song about 'Batteries', not in the sense you'd expect. This is probably my favorite song on the album lyrically. "The batteries are dead. Totally completely dead. Completely fucking dead" And with that ends a song on an almost Flaming Lips note.
13. Wasting Time - College, this songs takes me there. The lyrics scream that out to me and the music just plays along like a pied piper leading me to a place I like to visit every once in a while, but that I can never go back to. That's the beauty of music, it's ability to allow you to do things that you might not ever be able to do otherwise. And to share experiences with other people that may not be the same, but are still universal.
14. Thousands Of Guitars - The last song on the album and a great title. I don't know if there really are thousands of guitars in the song, but that's not what she meant. There are thousands of guitars that she's singing about. This is the way to close an album. A song that feels like the ending score to a film. One where when the credits are rolling, you're wanting to see the film again or run out and buy the soundtrack.... you just can't decide. It proves that Juliana not only knows how to create amazing things, she also knows how to put them into a logical order that the listener may not appreaciate or understand, but it matters as much as anything else. Just another reason why she amazes me and continues to for all these years.
Obviously, this review is going to seem a bit tainted by my unbridled bias. However, I listen to every new album she puts out with a fresh ear and try and take it at face value. That being said, this is yet another amazing album from Juliana Hatfield. This one really feels like she made it out of love and a desire to make music. It doesn't feel rushed or like her hand was forced in anyway. It's something that I seem to have noticed since she's been putting things out on her own Ye Olde Records label. It's like its freed her up to be who she wants to be. Granted, I'm sure it has its pitfalls being your own label.... but I hope that it's also given her the license to be whoever she wants to be as an artist. I'm giving this a solid 5 out ot 5 star rating.
Is this album for everyone? I can't say. That's the beauty of all things artistic.... it's all up to the individual to make up their mind if they like something or not. There is literally something for everyone out there. I would however, recommend that you give this one a chance. Even if you haven't heard anything of hers since 'My Sister' or 'Spin the Bottle', take the time to catch up with an old friend. She's been here all this time making music for anyone who'll listen and I think that's made what she does all the much more enjoyable.
Thank you Juliana and I look forward to whatever comes next. (That covers album you're talking about sounds like fun to me!)
Support independent music! Please buy the album directly from Juliana Hatfield via her own label, Ye Olde Records at: http://www.julianahatfield.com/newalbum.htm