How To Walk Away (2008)

Juliana Hatfield

  1. The Fact Remains
  2. Shining On
  3. This Lonely Love
  4. My Baby…
  5. Just Lust
  6. Now I’m Gone
  7. Remember November
  8. So Alone
  9. Such A Beautiful Girl
  10. Law Of Nature

*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.

Other Reviews

"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."
9/10

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic.com

"surprisingly vital"

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

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FURTHER READING:

Washington Post interview 5 September 2008

Village Voice interview 2 September 2008

the promo tour poster

Demo Disc

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.