Following her fan funded solo acoustic lp Wild Animals in Summer 2013, the same year sees Juliana release Get There - a collaboration with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf under the artist name of Minor Alps.
This project was borne of years of mutual appreciation and occasional work together. Juliana and Matthew had guested on each others records in recent years and Nada Surf's Fruit Fly was chosen on Juliana's 2012 covers album.
They began writing songs together in 2012 in both the US and Caws home in England. (Matthew was in attendance on Juliana's tour with Evan Dando towards the end of the year).
From Barsuk Records:
Along with sharing lead vocals and writing credit on all of Get There's eleven tracks, Matthew and Juliana played every instrument beside the drums, conjuring up an ever-shifting range of sounds and feelings. It's not just the timbre of the voices and the shared vision of their musical explorations, but the emotional tone of Caws and Hatfield's songs and lyrics that blends so seamlessly. Their attraction to themes of restless solitude and constant longing have always been a compelling part of their individual repertoires, and Minor Alps expresses an ageless existential yearning tempered by hard-fought wisdom, maturity, or maybe just acceptance of certain eternal truths.
From the artist bio at Paradigm Talent Agency:
It was clear from these brief encounters that their voices and sensibilities are almost preternaturally harmonious – or, more accurately (as illustrated throughout their new album Get There, recorded under the name Minor Alps), it can be difficult at times to distinguish between their voices, or to know where one’s ideas might end and the other’s begin. As Hatfield declares, “In certain ranges, the tones of our voices are so similar I can’t tell which is which. I haven’t experienced that with any other singer.” It’s as if they were always meant to perform together, and the pair has, luckily for us, finally realized it.
Hatfield and Caws not only share lead vocals and co-writing credit on each of the eleven songs that comprise Get There; aside from some drumming and programming by Parker Kindred (Jeff Buckley, Antony and the Johnsons) and Chris Egan (Solange, Computer Magic), the pair plays every instrument and conjures every sound – from primitive electronic dub pulse (‘Buried Plans’)-- to straight-up rock hook (‘I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands’) to stripped-down electric guitar punch (‘Mixed Feelings’) to eerie trance-allure (‘Radio Static’) to hypnotic guitar drone (‘Waiting For You’).
It’s not just the timbre of the voices and the shared vision of their musical explorations, but the emotional tone of their songs and lyrics that blends so seamlessly. Their attraction to themes of restless solitude and constant longing have always been a compelling part of their individual repertoires, and Minor Alps expresses an ageless existential yearning tempered by hard-fought wisdom, maturity, or maybe just acceptance of certain eternal truths. As they ruefully admit in ‘If I Wanted Trouble,’ “This growing up never ends/ The same mistakes come back again…”
There's a terrific long form interview with Juliana and Matthew at Diffuser, where they talk in depth about the songs and recording.
The album was released via the following labels commencing October 29, 2013 in the US, rolling out worldwide during October / November:
US: Barsuk Records - CD & Vinyl LP orders
EU: Ye Olde Records (Juliana's own label)
Australia: Stop Start
Japan: Only in Dreams
You can also listen / download some tracks from the album via Noisetrade.
However, despite this largely being an album about isolation and the internal struggles that come with it, Hatfield and Caws sing nearly every line on Get There together, as in simultaneously. Naturally, I expected the two to trade off lead vocal duties on the album, but instead they share almost every lyric, never fighting for the spotlight and often using this dynamic to create really beautiful, moving harmonies, such as at the end of “Buried Plans.”
Michael Garrity, Paste
This combo creates a very intimate and satisfying listen as you might already guess. Caws typical hush vocal delivery shines in this setting and when Hatfield chimes in on a harmony, it is the perfect complement.
Rather than simply trading lead vocal duties, they take the effortless harmonies route instead, making it hard to discern where one voice ends and the other begins. While the acoustic songs are satisfyingly pretty, particularly "Maxon," it's when they make the switch to electric that it comes alive.
Michael Edwards, exclaim.ca
The duo co-write, sing and play nearly every instrument on a predominantly lush, lovely rendered debut that is never less than pleasant. Unfortunately, it’s seldom more than that either as these amiable tunes drift on a dreamy haze that threatens to slide into a memorable chorus or melody, but seldom does.
Hal Horowitz, American Songwriter
And while the current hipster generation might be unfamiliar with these veteran alt-rockers, fans of contemporary indie pop and electro-folk (Bon Iver springs to mind) will definitely find enjoyment in songs like the gorgeously rustic Maxon, the poignant Waiting For You and thoughtful Buried Plans.
Kevin Mathews, Today
Hopefully this isn't a one-off, since Get There is as pleasurable as anything Hatfield or Nada Surf have offered listeners in recent years.
Mark Deming, AllMusic
The Minor Alps have arrived, and Get There is a worthy story of their journey.
Justin Weller, mxdwn.com
Supergroups can sometimes be a letdown, but with Minor Alps, Caws and Hatfield bring to the table and combine their best individual qualities into a highly appealing cohesive unit. "Get There" is the work of two of indie rock's most undersung masters.
Allan Raible, ABC News
They wrote, sang and played everything (except drums) on the album, meshing individual styles where they comfortably overlap, in a zone of graceful, grown-up folk-rock.
Jon Parales, New York Times
The pairing of these two accomplished musicians has found its place in history. It's well worth hoping that we Get There more often.
Richard Becker, Liquid [Hip]
Caws and Hatfield may have matured, but if Get There shows anything it’s that those youthful feelings of loneliness never completely fade.
Sarah Edmonds, The Upcoming
There’s something about the wistful melancholy of the songs—in both the lyrics and the sweetly downbeat music—that makes the whole album seem like faintly remembered dispatches of twentysomething angst. There are details throughout—or, to be accurate, maybe just a tone—that feel more appropriate for songwriters still of the age of post-collegiate confused emotions than a couple music biz veterans closer to 50 than 40. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it does sap some of the urgency from the album, which becomes a bit more of an issue when the vocals are calibrated to Hatfield’s trademark adorable disaffectedness.
Dan Seeger Spectrum Culture
There’s nothing groundbreaking or vital in the 11 songs collected here. It’s adult alternative lifestyle music that will offend no one, and it should make a pleasantly unobtrusive soundtrack for sipping frothy lattes or perusing the Pottery Barn catalog for new drapes.
Mike Kalil, Las Vegas CityLife
Basically, they did everything right here. Get There is an intelligent, authentic alternative rock album that sounds as enjoyable to live in as it probably was to make.
Michael Roffman, Consequence Of Sound
Usually when experienced music veterans join forces, the result is a mixed bag wherein it’s blatantly obvious where one party took the songwriting into his or her own hands. But on their first project as a duo, Juliana Hatfield and Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws have a synergy that makes you wonder why they didn’t collaborate sooner.
Daniel Kahn, Filter
The overall mood of Minor Alps’ first outing is somewhat downbeat and yet wistful. Two rockers who really hit their stride during the Clinton years are now in middle age and I think the subject matter here (relationships won and lost, self-reflection, “mixed feelings) is mirroring that.
Andrew W Griffin Red Dirt Report
There is so much to love in all of the songs here, and hearing Hatfield and Caws together makes you wonder why it couldn't have happened sooner, but then again; there is a season for all things, and this is so obviously theirs.
Adventurous it’s not but there’s no denying the fizzy, thrash-about appeal of Mixed Feelings, the compellingly simple pull exerted by Waiting For You or the finger-picked charms of Maxon, which joins the dots between Crosby, Stills & Nash and Bon Iver.
In contrast to the cover of the album, which is rather bleak and foreboding, ‘Get There’ is a collection of eleven lushly produced songs from the duo.
Philip Soanes, Folk Radio UK
The voices blend magically, while the guitars of "I Don't Know What to Do with My Hands" and "Far from the Roses" employ a pleasing mix of Neil Young grunge and REM arpeggios.
Andy Gill, The Independent
It is very rare that we see a musician(s) fashion an album like Get There with such an echelon of calm reassurance. This record is not for the faint hearted, harshly depicted themes and cynical imagery of segregation, pining, and restiveness direct the flow. Not surprisingly, somewhat reinforcing this point, the record kicks with the utterance: “such a loner”. One can’t help but suspect that the band may have purposely decided to kick off proceedings with “Buried Plans”.
John Glynn, When The Gramophone Rings
Think Jim Reid and Hope Sandoval on The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘Sometimes Always’ – sugar-sweet voices destined to be together. As Minor Alps, Hatfield and Caws have made a gorgeous debut that sounds as if they’ve recorded it in each other’s pockets, their tones exquisitely matched, the songs intimate.
Matthew Horton, NME
For the most part, Get There tries to find center ground between the worlds of Bon Iver and Death Cab For Cutie. Every so often, as on “Mixed Feelings,” the pair let loose and indulge themselves in the fuzzy, energetic punk-pop of the early 2000’s.
Angel J Melendez, fuzzyheadphones
Ultimately, there is a bulging gap left via a distinct lack of, well, songs, and there are moments that are uncomfortably dull and so ordinary it just becomes tiresome.
Daniel Dylan Wray, Loud and Quiet
It could have so easily been indulgent and small but Get There is bursting with energy and ideas.
Gary K, The Digital Fix
Then there’s the formula factor. Minor Alps seem content to peddle pleasant but not particularly memorable pop-rock. Quiet verses lead into louder choruses with big drums and whitewashed guitars as Caws and Hatfield repeat a phrase that, depending on the song, becomes either more meaningful with each cycle (e.g. “Lonely low”) or collapses under the weight of repetition (e.g. “I don’t know what to do with my hands” and “If I wanted trouble I could find it”).
Joel Oliphint, Pitchfork
There are lots of intimate lyrical moments like two lovers exchanging thoughts and memories. We’re lucky they have let us in. We’re all very lucky that they went through so much for us. Start with the rock radio tune then work your way inside their heads and like us we’re already looking forward to the next set of tunes.
David Urbano, Review Stalker
For Minor Alps’ Get There has not one peak, as might one such enumeration, but instead several.
Josh Holliday, Dots and Dashes
Get There suffers from a similar state of limbo to that of a love-stricken teenager. For the most part it wants to be a charming collection of indie-pop songs that are easy to relate to, but still yearns to occasionally break out and start making noise. It feels that in an attempt to control those urges, Hatfield and Caws have made a record that, whilst it has its charm, lacks in any real excitement
Robert Whitfield, The 405 Reviews
The third of Juliana's fan funded albums using PledgeMusic.
Unlike the previous two, Juliana didn't provide regular studio updates or song snippets and the songs were therefore unknown to many of us before the release.
At launch of the project she proposed the album's tone:
I am going to make a mostly (but not totally) acoustic album but I am not going to overthink or overproduce any performances. It will have the loose energy of, say, my album “Bed”, without all the distortion (but maybe with some) and with more prettiness.
If you're familiar with Juliana's home demos of recent years and her other acoustic album - 2010's Peace & Love, this record is similar in production style.
These were suggested by Juliana during the Pledge campaign prior to deciding on the Wild Animals name:
metaphors for loneliness
find me gone
burning on fire
ill at ease
high heels in the sand
2 August 2013: PledgeMusic release date
10 September 2013: CD release via julianahatfield.com
12 September 2013: General Retail / Digital inc iTunes
With simple production and instrumentation, the latest, fan-supported release from Massachusetts alt-rocker Juliana Hatfield, Wild Animals, is an 11-track record of songs that fully allow Hatfield’s lovely voice and characteristic vulnerability to really shine. 4/5
Wild Animals is a simply arranged album, with little more than Hatfield's vocals and a guitar on most tracks. The production is rudimentary, which I've always felt is the best way to present Hatfield's music. It's rawness lends an authenticity and honesty that it would take millions of dollars and many months to construct in a high-tech studio environment.
Further info / links to follow. Or maybe not - as was the case with 2012's covers album it doesn't look as though Juliana has sent any review copies out or employed any kind of publicist for this album.
* omitted from vinyl version
A snippet of press blurb:
Juliana Hatfield's first-ever all-covers album featuring an eclectic mix of rock and pop song interpretations (Bad Company, Pete Yorn, Teenage Fanclub, ELO, Liz Phair, Led Zeppelin)--acoustic as well as raw rock and electric programmed-beat versions. Some produced and mixed by Andy Chase of Ivy / Brookville. Featuring background vocals from Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.
10 August 2012: PledgeMusic subscribers download release date
28 August 2012: General release
For those of you with Spotify, here's a playlist of the songs as recorded by the original artists.
This was created for Spotify in the UK. Hopefully most if not all songs are licensed in other regions.
Teenage Fanclub - Cells
Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising
Bad Company - Ready For Love (originally a Mott The Hoople song)
I Blame Coco - Selfmachine
Nada Surf - Fruit Fly
Pete Yorn - Closet
Electric Light Orchestra - Sweet Is The Night
Ryan Adams - Do I Wait
Liz Phair - Friend Of Mine
The Who - My Wife
Led Zeppelin - Rock And Roll