Sunday, February 24 By: John Campbell
Juliana Hatfield, American singer and songwriter and primarily solo artist adds another full length album to her well rounded thirty-plus year career in music. “Weird” is a great addition to the Rock genre. This album appealed to me in a couple of ways, and I was not let down but this musical veteran.
Going into this album, I was given the impression that there would be a lot of catchy melodies and pop elements commonly littered throughout. To my surprise, the pop elements (what very little there were) weren’t really a part of what makes this record so pleasing to me. In the opener song “Staying In”, I was introduced to this melodic and groovy rock motif that would find its way into the rest of the tracks on here. It appealed to me the same way that Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “By the Way” appeals to me. Especially on the song “No Meaning”, where the guitar and bass melodies were darker in nature. Unfortunately, this song suffered from slightly weaker production than the rest of the album. The mixing and production on this album was a little inconsistent, but took nothing away from the sound you’re presented. But nonetheless, the musical direction here was confident and inspired.
A focus on strong and developed vocals and sprinkles of emotionally charged melodies sucked me right into the music. Juliana makes use of this flange-y chorus effect on her vocals that really add to her developed singing style, and I enjoy it on most of the songs. However, on “Staying In”, it sounded almost as if her high range was meant to clip at one part and it bothered me a bit. I absolutely loved Juliana’s use of rock melodies in this record and I am very interested in seeing what’s to come. It’s so refreshing to see that after thirty years she can still give us such a passionate set of songs to listen to.
Some of the songs like “Everything’s for Sale” and “Broken Doll” have drums that just seem to be present, but indifferent. Almost like they were simply programmed and left that way. It doesn’t take away from these tracks, but it certainly doesn’t add anything besides a check mark that says “Yep, we put a drum track in there”. My favorite track “Lost Ship” has the best drum track on the album by far. This track is undoubtedly my favorite, it was passionate, melodic, and so well developed. It stood out among the others to me, but not by a huge margin. This album has a very pleasing sound to it, and feels passionate and well developed.
The lyricism on this record has a popular approach to songwriting, and that isn’t a bad thing at all. The lyrics on a lot of these songs tend to call forth imagery while telling stories. There isn’t really a common theme shared between all the songs. The song “Paid to Lie” is more politically charged, talking about those who are paid to lie by the system and the rhetoric of “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer”. Other songs like “No Meaning” and “Do it to Music” are more intimate for Juliana and talk about her. In the latter track, she is singing about what music means to her and how she uses it in her life. These songs aren’t always melancholy in nature, but she performs them in a way that makes them sound like it, and it appeals to me. She sounds very passionate about what she’s singing about, and frames it appropriately. In my favorite track “Lost Ship” Juliana sings about riding the spaceship into her mind, a place where she can be alone and peaceful. I really connected with that sentiment, and the song was written so well that both the lyrics and the music built off of each other in a brilliant way.
The influences in this record were pretty much irrelevant in my opinion. The way that Juliana writes he melodies and develops musical motifs makes her stand out to me. Obviously I liked to compare this record to “By the Way” by RHCP, but it is very different in so many ways. Some of the riffs and tones used in this album were almost sounding like Punk Rock to me. The track “All Right, Yeah” sounded like something I would hear at a summer block party. The track “Sugar” was the closest to Pop you’ll hear on this album (and no, it’s nowhere near sounding anything like the Maroon 5 song of the same name) with its catchy and groovy hook. The one thing I really liked about the use of these melodic and alternative rock ideas was how they were used to make the song “It’s so Weird”. This track is so emotionally intimate and relatable for people who don’t like being in relationships, and the musical ideas in this song strongly represent that feeling. Juliana has more than developed her sound and what influences she likes to reflect, and she made herself comfortable writing those ideas on this album.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of this album and found myself singing along with the more catchy and melodic tracks. Juliana Hatfield has more than proven herself to be a competent solo artist, and this record is just thirty-seven minutes of proof. Do yourself a favor and go listen to this wonderful record.
Favorite Tracks: It’s so Weird, Receiver, Lost Ship
Least Favorite Track: All Right, Yeah