Music as a universal language
With the same pervasive attitude and demeanor, Juliana Hatfield released another solo album on January 18, 2018. Weird is full of contradictions. Although she sounds like your teenage counterpart who just learned to play the guitar in her father’s basement, Hatfield is an experienced musician with roots in the ‘90s.
Weird is both upbeat and uplifting, while effortlessly consistent. “It’s So Weird” revives Hatfield’s early musical sound with respect to her former college rock band Blake Babies, formed in Boston in 1986. With lyrical adornments and psychedelic twists on melodies, Hatfield’s sound evolution is most audible in her latest album. Yet, her voice still sounds like the naive 22-year-old unencumbered by rejection and withering pay stubs.
Juliana Hatfield is unapologetically herself with observational, sometimes rambling lyrics that speak more to her than her listeners. Track four “Everything’s For Sale” finds faults in the commercialization of mindset, health and lifestyle. This desire to expose cultural crisis in music is not a new concept, but Hatfield’s lyrical syntax is wrenching. Hatfield lists items for sale: “self-cleaning ovens, conversion therapy” and this side-by-side comparison feels numbing and discouraging.
Tracks five through eight sound a natural progression of realization and self-accountability, with the dial between denial and acceptance fidgeting between melodies. “All Right, Yeah” timely injects the album with an effortless grunge feel–spoken lyrics and dirty fumbling guitar generate a machine-like melody. Hatfield’s heart skips a beat in “Receiver” as she sings offbeat, unconcerned with proper music theory and instead focussed on revealing her stricken vulnerability. In “Lost Ship,” stream of consciousness finds Hatfield contemplating a feeling of permanence suffocating her reality: “wanna ride on a spaceship in my mind and transcend emotion.”
The drums meet the guitar melody like the Atlantic meets the East Coast, crashing into each other with perfect precision. The intro to “Paid To Lie” begins with muddled percussion and fuzzy guitar that win over the listener immediately. Hatfield whispers with honest intentions into the mic, her melodic voice gently carrying the song like a soft wind.
Hatfield closes out the album with “Do It To Music,” a comment on her rebellious attachment to music: “When I wanna block out the world, I do it to music.” She lets us in on her secret coping mechanism, her self-instructed education, her infinite mentality. Music just might be the universal language that we can all understand.
The album exists in its own reality, untouched by time, stuck in the ‘90s where her first two solo albums reside. Weird adds little but consistency to her collective discography. If you want to block out the world, Weird just might be your anthem.