Juliana Hatfield: How to Walk Away

Solo or with one of her bands (Blake Babies, Juliana Hatfield Three), Juliana Hatfield's moody MOR jangle-and-coo always anticipated an indie-rock styled for Jay Leno. While that's not necessarily a diss, her sweet child-voice requires a bitter trade-off: namely, some of the best lyrics ever written about punishing asshole boys, and one's asshole self, for the stupidity that love inspires. Best known for the 1995 hit "My Sister" from Only Everything (Atlantic), Hatfield has gone indie more recently. Two thousand four's In Exile Deo (Zoe) and 2005's Made in China (on her own Ye Olde Records) have their adherents, though I find Exile too tinny and slick and China (a return to grunge) less songful. How to Walk Away, meanwhile, finds Hatfield gently crooning her catchiest songs ever, produced this time for Sheryl Crow fans, but with the lighter touch of Ivy's Andy Chase keeping the chamber-synths sleek and out of the way. "This Lonely Love" recycles the riff of 2004's "It Should Have Been You" for a tune that deserves it (with the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler singing backup), and you can imagine U2 covering the non-cheesy "Luka" update "Such a Beautiful Girl" (co-written with Hatfield's brother Jason). There, she hits those same old crazy high notes, but with a lack of strain that conveys resignation rather than outrage. Finally, "The Fact Remains" is the saddest breakup song our president will ever get. Asshole boys deserve so much worse.

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Peter S. Scholtes