Peace and Love
Ye Olde Records
Well, she didn’t walk away like she hinted on her last album. But Juliana Hatfield hasn’t returned full force, either. While How to Walk Away was shiny and slick, Peace and Love is an intimate one-woman affair. Literally. Juliana Hatfield produced and engineered her 11th solo album herself. She recorded acoustic and electric guitars, piano, harmonica, and her own double-tracked voice into an eight-track digital recorder in her apartment.
The result is a hushed, yet surprisingly clean-sounding album. The only giveaways to the lo-fi recording are the periodic squeaking from chord changes on the acoustic guitars and rat-a-tat beats from a drum machine on a few tracks. These folkish songs could easily be “played on street corners and station platforms” as Boston Phoenix music writer James Parker states in the liner notes.
Peace and Love covers virtually the same themes as How to Walk Away — confusion and pain from broken and dysfunctional relationships and the desire to learn from painful experiences. However, the lyrics of Peace and Love are more simple and direct. Juliana explaining the meaning of each song in the liner notes is unnecessary.
The only thing that prevents the record from veering into girl-with-guitar-at-open-mic-night-territory is the music. Juliana Hatfield’s real gift is crafting hook-filled melodies that effortlessly blend into each other. She has displayed this time and again throughout her nearly 25-year career. Hell, even the electric guitar and piano solos on Peace and Love are catchy. The 5/8 time signature of “The End of the War” begs to be hummed along with.
Perhaps Juliana Hatfield could have made a nice chunk of change by writing music for platinum-selling pop tarts, á la Linda Perry. But she has too much pride — which is both Juliana’s biggest strength and greatest weakness. Making music is fiercely personal for her. The longest track, “Evan” is about Evan Dando. And no, early ’90s gossip hounds, the song is no lurid confessional; it’s a sweet ode to her old friend. The bluesy “I’m Disappearing” covers struggles with anorexia.
You can’t blame Juliana for rehashing old subjects, however. According to Nielsen SoundScan, How to Walk Away only sold 9,600 copies. Peace and Love is really for Juliana herself and her hardcore fans. That’s a shame since there’s some fine music here.
Juliana Hatfield: www.julianahatfield.com