Posts Tagged ‘Juliana Hatfield’

The good news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. The bad news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. 

I’m being somewhat facetious, of course, essentially joking to make a larger point: Since arriving in the Tar Heel State last month, I haven’t listened to music in the car – not via the radio or CD, and definitely not via the iPhone-aux jack connection, as my aux jack crapped out late last summer. Instead, my travelin’ companion has been Siri via Apple Maps. “Turn right,” she instructs. Turn right, I do – only to watch the app re-route because I turned one street too soon.

Such is life in the modern age, I suppose.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Finds, Old Souls.

1) Lucy Rose – “Conversation.” The British songstress has a knack for crafting songs that sound like they were lifted fully formed not just from her subconscious, but from yours and mine, too. (It’s as if she taps into the universal synapse, in a sense.) Such is the case with this, the lead single from her forthcoming album, No Words Left, which is due out on March 22nd.

2) Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen.” Van Etten’s looking over her shoulder in this tune, which is a taste of her forthcoming Remind Me Tomorrow album. Sonically speaking, it reminds me of Anna Calvi’s first Bowie-drenched album. (Not a bad thing, in my book.)

3) The Bangles – “Talking in My Sleep.” From the 3×4 compilation, which finds the Bangles, Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade covering each other’s songs. In this case, it’s the Bangles covering Rain Parade. (Side note: I hear my youth reverberating in the grooves…)

4) Juliana Hatfield – “Lost Ship.” Yeah, I offered my first impressions of Weird, the new Juliana album, last week. This song, one of its stellar tracks, has been ricocheting around my brain since I first heard it in mid-December. It’s just freakin’ great.

5) Jade Bird – “What Am I Here For.” The Brit singer-songwriter, who melds Americana with old-fashioned rock and pop, delivers an astounding performance in this month-old clip.

And two bonuses…

6) Linda Ronstadt – “1970s interview.” An excellent interview from The Old Grey Whistle Test in which Linda discusses her career, the Eagles and more. About the songs she sings: “I pick them. They have to be about me, in a way.”

7) Another insightful interview with Linda, this one from 1977:

 

It’s been a wild, whacky and – dare I say it? – weird few weeks due to the Big Move, and the weirdness will likely stretch into the next few months. There’s a lot to unpack. Among the items on our to-do list: clear the boxes from the dining room, living room and den, set up the stereos, and hang the pictures we want on the walls.

One thing that has almost made the daunting task bearable: Juliana Hatfield’s Weird album. The official release date is January 18th, but those of us who ordered one of the bundles from American Laundromat received it early – in my case, on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t had much time for critical listening, but I have listened. And listened.

In short, the set is uniquely Juliana, exploring such themes as introversion, sugar, selling out, and escapism, plus politics, atop a sonic soundscape that shimmers. She handles all the guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals, plus adds supplemental drums to four tracks accented by the ZOOM MRT-38 Micro RhythmTrak. Old partners-in-crime Freda Love Smith and Todd Philips keep the beat on the others.

The music is moody, mercurial and mesmerizing, and the melodies disarming. Maybe it’s just me, but echoes of the Buffalo Springfield’s guitar interplay and the Velvet Underground staccato rhythms waft through some songs, and even a little ONJ & ELO bubbles to the fore on the album closer, the deceptively upbeat “Do It to Music.”

Check out the lead single, “Lost Ship”:

There’s also a bonus 7-inch single available that features two songs (“On Your Feet” and “The Family Stain”) not on the album – well worth the purchase. (And for folks without a turntable, it comes with a download card, so you can still hear the songs.) The couplet that stays with me comes from the b-side: “History is like a stain/you cannot wash away.” So true.

If you haven’t already, head over to the American Laundromat site and order the album and single.

 

’Tis the season for making lists and checking them twice, and determining which album is the Old Grey Cat’s ballyhooed Album of the Year. The honor, which is celebrating its 40th year this year, came about late in 1978 due to my dream of becoming a rock critic (yeah, I know: crazy!), and continued through the decades because…well, why not? Over that span, it’s chronicled the evolution (or lack thereof) of my musical tastes.

It is a decidedly personal affair, in other words. In years past, and on the updated tally I post early each year, I explain the process thusly: “The candidates are drawn from what I’ve purchased, so the pool is decidedly limited in comparison to, say, what the writers at Rolling Stone or Allmusic.com are exposed to. Some years I buy a lot and some years not, primarily due to my listening habits – I play albums I love over and over and over until they become one with my subconscious (obsession, not variety, is my spice of life). So the more I like certain albums, the less overall I hear.”

But in the immortal words of Ron Ziegler, “that statement is no longer operative.” In the age of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, no one needs to actually purchase an album to enjoy it. Just about every new release can be had for the price of one CD a month (aka the subscription fee) or the willingness to put up with commercials. (Yet, although I don’t purchase as much as I once did, I own all the albums that made their way onto my list. How could I not?)

Also, as I wrote last year, “The candidates are also winnowed by my age, race, gender and idiosyncrasies. I’m a middle-aged white guy, in other words, with catholic tastes.”

Some years, I revisit all the contenders. This year? There was no need. They are albums that I’ve turned to time and again since their releases, and have never grown tired of. That said, there were a few surprises: Although I thoroughly loved First Aid Kit’s Ruins and Courtney Marie Andrews’ May Your Kindness Remain, as the year wore on I found myself listening to them less and less often. I’m sure it had more to do with me, and the headspace I found myself in, than the music. I deem them two of my three “honorable mentions” for the year. Mikaela Davis’ Delivery is my third.

And, with that… 

Juliana Hatfield’s Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John is my Album of the Year. 

I got chills when she announced the project – as Hopelessly Devoted to Liv – during her concert with Wesley Stace at the Ardmore Music Hall in October 2017, and those chills were multiplying after she sang “Have You Never Been Mellow?” and “Physical.” (Just as an aside, Stace suggested that she call the album JH Sings ONJ, as the title conjures such cover sets from yesteryear as The Hollies Sing Dylan. It obviously stuck.) 

In my review, I noted that the set is, in some ways, an extension of the moving “Wonder Why” from her 2017 Pussycat LP, “in which she sought refuge from the madness of the present via the memories of her childhood. These songs, for her and us, are a similar escape into the past. They conjure another time and place, and also pay homage to a singer (and sometime songwriter) who, in that long-ago era, created a safe room where many of us dwelled on occasion.”

FYI: It’s the sixth time that Juliana has nabbed my year-end honors.

The first runner-up: the Stone Foundation’s Everybody, Anyone. In my review, I said that the songs “feature taut rhythms and lyrics that strive for something more than the rudimentary reflections that make up much of today’s mainstream music. They’re metaphysical musings of the highest order.”

Paul Weller co-wrote that Stone Foundation track, “Next Time Around.” His own release this year, True Meanings, is the latest classic in his own oeuvre, and is my second runner-up. Due to offline events, this blog was placed into a holding pattern around the time of the album’s release, so I never reviewed it. But make no mistake: It’s one of his best. 

The third runner-up: Shelby Lynne’s Here I Am, which features her songs (and some poetic snippets of dialogue) from her movie of the same name. Originally available only on vinyl, it’s now out on CD (via Shelby’s online store). The songs are as mesmerizing as her performance in the film.  

The fourth runner-up: Erin O’Dowd, whose debut album, Old Town, took up residence in my heart and head way back in May, and provided much-needed sustenance on a long road trip Diane and I took in September. In my First Impressions piece on it, I said that the songs sent “my spirits soaring higher than the beautiful May morn.”

The fifth and final runner-up: Becky Warren’s Undesirable, which is an album-long treatise on America’s unofficial caste system. As I wrote in this piece, it’s akin to a series of short stories set to song. It’ll draw you in, make you think, and make you tap your feet.

As we prepare for our move, one of the things we’re doing is shearing the fleece from lives – aka downsizing. As I may have written before, while we’ve always thought of ourselves as collectors, some might call us packrats or hoarders. Regardless, we’re now in the process of moving past such labels. Most of our CDs and LPs have left the building; and, in the days and weeks ahead, most of our books will, too, along with the many silly knick-knacks we’ve picked up through the years – Keith Olbermann bobblehead, I’m looking at you!

One of the (many) other things I’m parting ways with: my HP desktop computer, which I’m giving to a friend. (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve booted up it since buying a MacBook Pro in 2014.) So I spent a chunk of Saturday transferring files – mostly photos – to an external hard drive. Those were the nascent days of the iCloud (for us, at least), so I hadn’t seen most in years – and, surprising no one who knows me off-line, most are of my cat. Many of the others are from concerts, the quality of which denigrate the further away from the stage we were.

There are plenty of concert videos, too, though the best clips found their way to my YouTube channel. Also in the mix: a few webcasts, which I recorded by  pointing the iPod Touch at my computer monitor.

Anyway, this gem – the first of in a “From the Archives” series – dates to August 10, 2013, when Juliana Hatfield streamed a webcast for folks who pledged on her third PledgeMusic album, Wild Animals.