Yes, Juliana Hatfield still makes records.
i read a short profile on juliana hatfield in the new issue of big takeover that i found really interesting. she was saying some cool shit about artistic integrity vs. career aspirations, and though i could tell she was proud of her new album, there's definitely some elements of bitterness that creep through in the article. when juliana became famous in the early 90s, i already knew her work with the blake babies and lemonheads, and bought her solo albums because i liked her work, not because she was some new buzzbin artist with a hot single. it was kind of disheartening to find out that, for her, it seems most people just see her as an early 90s one hit wonder, and i guess i can't blame her for being bitter--i'd hate for people to constantly judge me by what i'd done 12 years ago, too.
anyway, the article made reference to an essay that juliana posted on her website about the new record, "made in china", and i went and read it. it blew me away. i could see a lot of myself in the lyrical snippets she posted, and especially in these few sentences:
"I was in love when I wrote and recorded this album. Can you tell? Can you tell I have no faith in love, no hope in it, no belief?"
you know what? i get off work in an hour and 15 minutes. i got paid yesterday. i'm going to walk to the record store a block away and buy this cd the second i'm off work. there's a football game i really want to see at 4:30, but fuck it, if i miss the first few minutes, i'll survive. i think i really need to own this record.
ok, i kept my word and got the record.
whenever i run right out and buy a record like this without having heard a single song on it, i'm always a little worried. what if it sucks? what if i dropped $15 on something that totally doesn't live up to my expectations? luckily, nothing could be further from the truth in this case. immediately upon putting "made in china" into my car stereo, i was blown away by the loud, raw-sounding distorted guitar. the first song, "new waif", is just over two minutes long, and is probably the most perfectly economical yet supremely catchy power-pop song i've heard in a long time. i admit that i haven't listened to juliana hatfield in a long time, since "only everything" in fact, and at that time i felt like her records were getting a bit overproduced, taking on a bit too much of a commercial gloss. based on some of the bitterness she expresses towards the music business in the interview and the essay i linked to above, i figured this album would head in a more rough-and-ready direction, and i was right. most of the album sticks with what she does on "new waif", but even on the few acoustic tracks, such as "hole in the sky", things are a lot more raw than what she was doing a decade ago. "hole in the sky"'s sparse instrumentation and no-frills recording makes it sound like juliana is sitting right in the room with you playing it--the ambience of the room is captured perfectly, making the song jump out of the speakers at you. the production is used to just as great effect on the rockers, her distorted guitar sound cranking loudly out of your speakers at the forefront of the mix, without sacrificing any clarity or doing anything to obscure the brilliance of her melodic songwriting chops. i'd call this a return to the more rocking sound of her work in the blake babies and on her first solo album, "hey babe", but really, even that stuff wasn't this loud and powerful. this record has the potential to define juliana hatfield's career in the same way that the lemonheads' "it's a shame about ray" (a record she played bass on) defined theirs. i just hope people pay enough attention that this happens.
i guess what i'm saying is that you should all get this album.