Peace & Love (2010)

Juliana Hatfield

  1. Peace and Love
  2. The End Of The War
  3. Why Can't We Love Each Other
  4. Butterflies
  5. What Is Wrong
  6. Unsung
  7. Evan
  8. Let's Go Home
  9. I Picked You Up
  10. Faith In Our Friends
  11. I'm Disappearing
  12. Dear Anonymous

The liveontomorrow.co.uk Track-by-track Review, February 2010

Juliana has often said that her albums are a reaction to their predecessors.

This century she has released the demos turned indie-pop songcraft one, the alt-metal noisy one, the polished AOR one, the abrasive angsty one, the live one, the country collaboration one and the ambitious multi-layered statement of genius one.

It follows, almost naturally, that 2010 is time for the DIY acoustic one. Say hello to Peace & Love.

The sound of the album will be familiar to fans who downloaded songs from Juliana’s Honor System project in 2009 and her contribution to the Mark Mulcahy tribute album.

Created exclusively at home, with apparently no external influences, this is Juliana’s most personal album in every sense.

As much as it is a reaction to How To Walk Away it still shares that album’s overwhelming message. This is an artist at peace with her work, more confident than ever with her talent and unashamedly proud.

The sleeve proclaims that the album was “composed, arranged, performed, produced, engineered and mixed by Juliana Hatfield.” As much a statement of confidence as it is fact.

It is an album of largely minimal instrumentation but with just enough nuances in texture and creative techniques to avoid sounding bland after its 12 songs - a risk that any acoustic album has to take.

Juliana’s trademark multilayered vocals are used extensively, and in the limited acoustic setting this effect is noticeable and often used for inspired harmonic appeal. The electric guitar makes an occasional, if understated, appearance too.

The album opens with the title track Peace and Love. The theme of the record is captured here. As the lyrical tone expands to familiar Juliana territory of personal introspection over the following 11 songs, Peace and Love is significantly placed at the start to inform the listener that whilst hurt, pain and frustration remain such emotions can be accepted if not embraced.

“I won’t give up on Peace and Love”

If acceptance was also key to the lyrical success of How To Walk Away, this album expands this to emphasise hope. As an album opener it is an inspired choice and as good a scene setter for the acoustic and harmonic subtleties that follow.

The End Of The War is a reflective look on confrontation and its life affirming qualities, matched by the music’s subdued rhythmic energy.

Why Can’t We Love Each Other introduces a simple piano and drum machine rhythm section. Lyrically there’s no surprise given the song’s title. It’s Juliana gone hippie - you know, all Peace & Love.

Some fans will already be familiar with Butterflies from the previous year or two, not least as it has previously appeared on a Daytrotter session. As Juliana mentions in her track by track notes, the song was inspired by a dream where she was surrounded by butterflies. Here, she brings them back to life. The music captures that ethereal dreamworld quality with delicate touches and her voice hitting some near breathless high notes.

Juliana returns to behavioural introspection commonplace throughout her career on What Is Wrong. She doesn’t have an answer for sadness or lack of communication in herself and others. But this is not despair. It just asks the question - why?

By track 6 we hit a first for Juliana. An instrumental, appropriately titled Unsung. Pedants who have pointed to 1993‘s Batwing and 2007‘s This Is What I Think Of You should note that there are vocals if not words on them. Unsung is her first instrumental. Blah. There’s electric guitar here too, but not how you’d expect.

A pleasant little diversion before the album reveals its most surprising lyrics as it moves on to Evan, dedicated to Juliana’s frequent musical collaborator for more than two decades and Mr Lemonheads himself, Evan Dando. There’s no ambiguity about the perspective of the songwriter or who the song is intended for. Juliana has never written lyrics quite like this before. Somehow, with its delicate tone and bittersweet lyrical touch the listener avoids feeling like an aural voyeur and is drawn into the content with affection and warmth. It’s one the most beautiful songs Juliana has ever written.

“I’ve tried to write you off but can’t so I’ll give up.
Evan, I just love you I guess.”

After a delightfully casual electric guitar solo, Juliana returns with vocal emotion to repeat the last line.

Let’s Go Home is the most ‘DIY’ sounding track on the album with a simple drum machine loop prominent in the mix. Unlike the other tracks it doesn’t sound quite finished and to these ears is the most disappointing song here. These ears are not James Parker’s though who describes the song positively in his evocative style that spreads across the rather splendid liner notes.

Then to I Picked You Up, already an established fan favourite after its appearance on 2008’s Live at Lime session. Some fans wondered if it would survive Juliana’s selection for the album given its genesis in her personal past, but with hindsight it just had to appear on Peace & Love. A song about fate, love and hope it fits perfectly. It still sounds gorgeous.

Faith In Our Friends is perhaps the album’s most accessible song with an immediately catchy melody, driven by an acoustic guitar rhythm in parts and some nice little dynamics. Again, the theme suits the album. In times of need, in times of sadness, there is always your friends.

Hatfield aficionados / trainspotters / nutcases will note that I’m Disappearing contains musical traces of I Wish from the 2009 Honor Downloads.

The trackfinds Juliana, not for the first time in her career, singing about anorexia. She’s written and sung about her personal suffering from the disorder before. One hopes that in the future she may not need to revisit this theme but if so her audience will again be there to listen and empathise. Whatever you need, Juliana.

The album closes with Dear Anonymous addressed to a stalker from the recipient’s point of view. With a mix of questions and wish to understand the stalker’s motive the song on first analysis appears a curious choice for the last one. However, as it reaches its own conclusion so does the album’s overall theme:

"I’m just singing into the void, just trying to say my piece/peace

I thank god I got no real enemies

I killed them all with kindness so we could live in peace"

As Juliana once sang:

Forever and ever.

Amen.

Further Reading / Listening

 "I've never done a record without an engineer before. I've always wanted to do something completely alone to see if it was a different experience, and it was. It was very freeing. I just felt really unencumbered by anyone else's opinions or anyone sort of pointing me in any kind of direction. It wasn't really planned, the end result. It just kind of came out of me, and that's the dryness of it: The raw production is a result of me not really knowing what I was doing. Not using a lot of the technology that I could've used gave a new aspect on things. There is no reverb or anything on any of the tracks." (Juliana Hatfield,  January 2010)

Read more on the album's themes and the recording process in a Q & A interview at Boston Magazine.

There's also a feature distributed on Reuters , another at Venuszine, and an interview at Sounds Good Ink.

You can listen to a phone interview with Juliana at The University of San Diego Student Radio, although a word of warning - there is a loud extended burst of white noise at the end of the interview (turn it off after Juliana says goodbye 25 minutes in if you value your ears) 

Juliana also talks about the recording process of Peace & Love in another phone interview with Patrick Ogle for Gearwire

Alternate Album Covers

Other Reviews

"it’s been a long time since Hatfield put out a record so warm and affecting, so hopeful in its examination of loneliness and pain, and just plain comforting."

Michael Fortes, Popdose


"what makes her so unique is that she has one of the purest and prettiest voices in the rock genre and manages to marry it perfectly to straight-up guitar riffs"

Indie Rock Grrls 


"Modest atmosphere, fearless honesty"

Paste Magazine


"Her songwriting and performances are unforced like never before in her career and her voice has never sounded better" 

The Donnybrook Writing Academy


"Hatfield is at her best when she's in full-on confessional mode" 3/5

Jonathan Keefe, Slant


"Peace and Love has a real organic feel to it throughout, filled with strummy acoustic guitars and Hatfield's rich, emotive voice that add up to a collection of heartfelt, intimate songs." 7/10

Tim Hinely, Blurt


"What might seem at first to be a darkly solitary album turns out to be subtly strong and affirming." "4/5

Neil Carver, Eat Sleep Drink Music


"As Hatfield as always done, she seems content to produce music from within herself in this effort.  With the grittiness of the '90s washed away, the album reveals a soft honesty."

Michelle O'Brien, Ink


"An admirable change in pace, it sounds sparse but crystal clear, with Hatfield’s radio-friendly vocals having a very pure quality." 3/5

Terry Mulcahy, Wears The Trousers Magazine


 "it flows as a proper old-fashioned album, shifting tones subtly over its 12 songs"
8/10

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic


"A girl and a guitar can be a powerful thing. If that girl is Juliana Hatfield, you know that it will be an enjoyable experience. " 3/5

Robyn Gatsby, The Fire Note


"the songstress revisits some familiar themes in her deceptively straightforward compositions, underscoring mournful realizations with bonhomie" 3/4

Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times

2010 Press Release

Peace And Love, Juliana Hatfield’s latest album, will be released on February 16, 2010 on Ye Olde Records. Hatfield, of course, has a long history of DIY endeavors – from her trailblazing days with Boston indie band the Blake Babies to her recent releases on Ye Olde Records, the label she founded in 2005 – but with Peace And Love she reaches a new level of independence. She produced and engineered the album herself and played all the instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, piano, harmonica and drum machine.

“I’ve produced records before but I was always in a studio with professional engineers. So it was definitely a learning process for me,” says Hatfield, who was ready to strip things down after her critically acclaimed 2008 album, How To Walk Away, which was a full studio production. “I always like to try things I’ve never done before and I‘d been yearning to record myself.”

Hatfield had just purchased her brother’s eight-track digital recorder and moved into a Cambridge apartment with a back room that had excellent natural acoustics, so the time was right. “I was able to follow every instinct without worrying that anyone was going to think it was a kooky idea,” she recalls. “I just wanted to do something simple.”

The result is an incredibly intimate collection of songs, expertly capturing the loneliness and collateral damage borne of broken relationships yet adamantly refusing to remain broken. In the liner notes, Boston Phoenix music writer James Parker gives it a name: “Survivor-music – because even at their most palpitatingly fragile, your songs have always been built to last. Well-made, strong-boned, fit to be played on streetcorners and station platforms.”

Just as Hatfield stripped down the recording process, the characters that populate Peace And Love are ready to shed their convoluted lives. The lilting “Why Can’t We Love Each Other” answers its own question by acknowledging that love is a choice: “we can make our lives a song/will it be a blues or a hymn/a dirge or a psalm/it could be so simple.” But there’s the rub, of course: it could be so simple…if it weren’t for our propensity to muck things up.

From the plucked Elizabethan chords that introduce the opening “Peace And Love” and the feedback-drenched “What Is Wrong” to “Unsung,” Hatfield’s first-ever instrumental, and the closing “Dear Anonymous,” written from the point of view of a victim who finds empathy for her stalker, the collection is both compelling and surprising. “Faith In Our Friends” celebrates those who “think you’re just right the way you are” while Hatfield gains fresh perspective on her complex relationship with longtime friend Evan Dando on the exquisite, ethereal “Evan.”

Peace And Love is Hatfield’s 11th solo album and follows last year’s How To Walk Away, which was hailed as “rueful and gorgeous,” by Entertainment Weekly, which gave the album an A-. “After 20 years, the songstress still packs a wallop on her 10th album, featuring edgy tales of heartbreak sung with that classic sweetness,” said Newsweek, naming it a “Checklist” pick of the week upon its release while Spin pronounced it “vital,” awarding it three out of four stars. Her autobiography, entitled When I Grow Up, was published by Wiley & Sons in September 2008.

Hatfield first came to prominence in her teens as a founding member of the Blake Babies. After four independent albums with the group, she signed to Atlantic as a solo artist and had a string of modern-rock hits (including “My Sister,” “Spin The Bottle” and “Universal Heartbeat”). She left the label in 1998, signing to Zoe Records (a Rounder Records imprint) and releasing four well-regarded albums, including 2004’s In Exile Deo, named as one of that year’s 10 best albums by The New York Times’ Jon Pareles. In 2005, Hatfield came full circle, returning to her independent roots and founding Ye Olde Records.