*digital bonus track in some territories: Not Enough *
The liveontomorrow Track-by-track Review, 2008:
The 2nd full studio album from Juliana on her own Ye Olde Records label, and a major departure from the raw studio feel of its predecessor Made In China.
When Juliana suggested that the songs taken from her 2007 collaboration with Frank Smith on the Sittin’ In A Tree EP were rejected songs from her forthcoming album, expectation was raised, particularly as that EP contained the sublime On Your Mind.
This anticipation is met with How To Walk Away and then some.
An album full of subtle hooks and melodies, with lush production this is Juliana at her most radio friendly but also her most ambitious.
Studio sessions with guest performers, ably engineered and produced by Andy Chase and the Stratosphere Studio team, have produced a result of more scope and ‘effort’ than anything since God’s Foot if not ever.
Track 1 sets the theme perfectly with the gorgeous The Fact Remains, a reflective look at behavioural traits and their possible change in future times - “maybe next time I will know how to walk away”.
Shining On is a light paced, breeze of positivism and the most familiar song to Juliana fans, having been streamed on her MySpace page for months prior to the album’s release.
The start of This Lonely Love brings a surprise on first listen. A replica of the underlying riff from It Should Have Been You from 2004's In Exile Deo, as if you have turned on shuffle play by mistake. The song soon moves into, dare it be said, funky territory for Juliana, with sweeping string noises, a lovely little guitar solo and shared vocals with Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) hitting the right spot.
My Baby... is a lament for the last embers of a relationship - yet presented in a comforting slow ballad style. Just gorgeous.
The middle songs of the album sound similar to Juliana's recent work. Just Lust is a different take on a relationship – "it’s just lust..it doesn’t mean I love you” and sounding akin to the polished feel of the In Exile Deo album. Now I’m Gone, complete with hand claps and a carefree rhythm, is similar in musical vein to Juliana's contributions to the Some Girls albums.
Track 7 is the delightful Remember November. Co-written with Juliana's brother Jason (who plays piano here) the song sees Juliana at her most lyrically poignant, appreciative and at ease with herself than we have perhaps ever heard her. Sensitive souls beware - this is a really emotional one - Juliana thankful to the song's recipient for giving "a reason to keep trying" and "a great escape from a lonely life"
So Alone is catchy but thankfully not irritating on repeated listens. This could be clichéd lyrics of teenage angst; "so alone, you wanna die and nobody knows" - but in the context of this arrangement it sound like an anthemic treat. Don't ask why it works - just enjoy that it does.
And then on Such A Beautiful Girl Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) provides backing vocal duties on another highlight co-written with Jason Hatfield. A delicate piano journey, describing a beautiful girl who lives in "an ugly world".
Law of Nature- a conventional album closer from perhaps Juliana's most conventional album. A luscious treat seeing Juliana return to her oft treaded musings on the inevitability of life's patterns, and perhaps addressing her thoughts on opening track The Fact Remains.
The album revisits themes explored on much of her previous work – isolation, loss, and behavioural patterns but never has she sounded more at ease with herself.
Musically it is multi layered but not cluttered, melding electric and acoustic guitars with layers of orchestration, and has the sound of a timeless singer songwriter album. It is an album which has the potential to expose Juliana to the wider audience she deserves and yet it may prove to be her musical swansong.
Periodically Juliana has hinted that she may retire from performing live if not from the music business altogether. Invariably this seems to have been due to uncertainty over her future plans and a general frustration with the music ‘industry’.
This time however the message seems to be more calculated. Coinciding with the release in 2008 of her book – When I Grow Up – A Memoir and a series of weekly blogs on julianahatfield.com where she has demystified numerous songs from her career, the presentation of this album seems to have purpose making the title as apt as it is magnificent.
Juliana is reflecting on two decades of songcraft and finally, after periods of dismissing much of her earlier work, feeling justifiably proud of her output. As if to underline this, she has made her most consistent, confident and universally appealing album of her career.
Whatever the future holds for Juliana, How To Walk Away is an astonishing achievement.
"the most mature, confident assured, enjoyable, solid album of her solo career."
"this may very well be her first true masterpiece"
Allan Raible, ABC News
"a record that Juliana Hatfield always seemed on the verge of delivering but finally has."
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic.com
Mikael Wood, Spin
"by far her most listener-friendly, refined work yet"
Christopher John Treacy, Boston Herald
"sweet, mournful melodies coupled alongside delicate washes of vintage, underground guitar"
Bill Adams, Groundcontrolmag.com
Juliana released a limited edition bonus cd, available by mail order with initial copies of the album. It featured a number of home demos, many with a very basic drum machine backing. The tracklist also included tracks from the Sittin' In A Tree album and a few previously unreleased songs.
In 2011, further copies of this cd were made available as part of Juliana's PledgeMusic project.
Juliana's book was published by Wiley in 2008.
It's still available at Amazon.
Spiketop has a set of photos from an LA in store session in September 2008.
The Boston Phoenix has Chapter 34 ('Windows'), which details the series of events surrounding her depression and cancellation of her European tour in 1995:
It felt like this time, unlike all the others, the cloud wasn’t going to dissipate. This infernal woe had spread its poison all through my brain and body, as well as the city and sky, and I couldn’t see any way out. And I had to go on tour. It was all planned and scheduled and arranged. I guessed going on the road would be no worse than sitting in my apartment waiting for the end of the world, alone.
It’s so difficult to describe a bad depression. Even if one could capture it in all its blank, dead horror, she would know that there was not really any point in telling anyone else. Talking about how one’s blood has run cold, or dry, or black, doesn’t bring any relief. It’s as tedious for the sufferer as for the listener. Telling someone is only burdening him with a big problem that doesn’t appear to have any solution: it hurts to be awake. The morbidly depressed person’s only hope is for unconsciousness; for the gift of sleep to free her for the requisite seven or eight hours each night. Even then, disrupted or stunted sleep is often part of the problem.
The New York Times has an interview:
"You find yourself approaching middle age, playing another scuzzy rock club, trying to hold onto your dignity, but the toilet is overflowed, and the place stinks of stale beer. I still have all the faith and love for my music and yet I’m still playing places for kids."
Juliana on Don't by Dinosaur Jr. from an interview offering a playlist of accompanying music to the book at largeheartedboy.com:
"It was maybe the most authentically tortured and anguished vocal performance I'd ever had the pleasure (or horror) to witness."
Juliana reading exceprts and discussing the book at Northeastern University, Boston, USA on 14 January 2009:
The liveontomorrow.co.uk Review, 2007:
An EP recorded with Frank Smith (rising alt-country stars, former fellow Bostonians now decamped to Texas and most definitely “a band not a man”).
Coinciding with the release of Frank Smith’s full length album Heavy Handed Peace & Love (the first non-Juliana release on her Ye Olde Records label), the EP is the result of a short collaborative effort in the studio. And a highly satisfying effort it is too, impressively engineered, mixed and produced by Aaron Sinclair and Scott Toomey of the band.
6 songs, all with country-tinged arrangements (that’ll be those obligatory banjos and steel pedal guitars then) but not the radical departure from the continually evolving Hatfield sound this might suggest. These are Juliana’s songs after all and (not unlike Frank Smith’s previous work) the emphasis is perhaps more alt than country.
Opener 364 is classic Hatfield (co-written with brother Jason) with a powerful, emotional theme. Juliana is defiant and newly self empowered as she informs the target of the song that:
364 were for you But this day is mine so say goodbye I wonder what you will do when you find me gone Who will feed you, stroke your ego and love your songs?
Don’t Wanna Be The One follows a similar theme with a reluctant (but inwardly hopeful?) Juliana predicting karma for her deluded recipient. Malice may not be intended but the pessimistic warning that happiness doesn’t last pervades. Musically, it’s bluesy rockabilly-ish (clap you hands along with it, you know you want to) yet it still wouldn’t sound too out of place on the last Some Girls lp.
Three songs in and observational analysis gives way to an abandonment of introspective restriction. Juliana loosens up and decides that all she needs is A Beer And A Shot. Don’t we all sometimes? Lovely uptempo melody and a nice instrumental outro too (although it stops just as it gets going – an extended mix please?)
Lyrically this carefree outlook leads nicely into If Only We Were Dogs. On the last Some Girls record, Juliana sang of free people ‘needing social control’. Here she sings of a desire to abandon such social traits with perceived happiness obtained from wrestling in the mud, howling at the night and, if you will, licking crumbs off plates together. Layers of feedback give this song an old school indie feel in parts.
From canine to feline with fifth track Kitten, at face value a quirky if twee ode to a delicate lost pet. Juliana once said, possibly mischievously, that ‘For The Birds’ was an allegorical observation on US crime and given the mood of the tune there is likely to be similar metaphorical imagery at play here (perhaps a reflection of lost innocence). It just isn’t obvious. Beautiful melody and vocal on the chorus too.
Were this just a 5 track EP it would be wonderfully entertaining and another welcome addition to two decades of consistent songwriting. The sixth track however elevates this cd to another level.
On Your Mind is simply fantastic. Familiar to many of Juliana’s fans and an instant favourite ever since it’s public debut on the solo electric tour of Scandinavia in late 2006, the studio version more than meets expectation.
Matching the acoustic beauty of anything from Make It Home to Choose Drugs, the vocal delivery is evocative and the recording perfect. Frank Smith’s arrangement of back up instrumentation and just the right level of guitars should not be underestimated either.
Short on lyrics but it doesn’t need much more than the key repetition of the main line
Am I Ever On Your Mind?
It says it all and the melody matches the sentiment.
Just as the song approaches its end, Juliana adds a layer of vocal harmony and takes the tune to another ethereal, otherworldly place.
It could be the perfect soundtrack to the perfect movie.
Fans need no descriptive words to explain their love of Juliana’s music to their friends. They just need to play On Your Mind.
Then play it again.
"I didn’t want to impose my Juliana-ness — I wanted to absorb all the Frank Smith–ness I could."
Juliana Hatfield & Frank Smith feature in The Boston Phoenix