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How to Walk Away

Juliana Hatfield

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Album Review

Age agrees with Juliana Hatfield, lending an alluring huskiness to her girlish voice, a weariness to her love songs, and an assurance to her writing. All this is evident on How to Walk Away, a candidly confessional work that perhaps not so coincidentally arrives just before the publication of Hatfield's autobiography, When I Grow Up. How to Walk Away abounds with self-examination but it's not a journey through her back pages — it's a break-up album. Hatfield doesn't focus on the aftermath of a doomed relationship but rather the process of a messy split, turning in a loose song cycle about love, lust, and loss, filled with false finishes, halted new beginnings, retreads and reversals. Romance and reflection aren't uncommon to Hatfield — she's never shied away from unrequited crushes or moments of self-doubt — but here she reveals a resigned caustic wit and sly eye for detail, something that renders the slow dissolving romance on "My Baby..." quite heartbreaking and turns "Just Lust" into a withering dismissal. When Hatfield launched her solo career at the start of the '90s, she couldn't quite deliver such bluntly carnal tunes as her voice quivered with insecurities, which was an appropriate match for the fragility of her jangle pop. Such delicate situations seem in the distant past on How to Walk Away, as there's a tattered edge to her voice and a growing complexity to her craft. She still is foremost a pop songwriter, turning out songs as melodically bracing as "Now I'm Gone," but she balances this jangling pop with slower, folky tunes, occasionally dipping into jazzy after-hours textures, then channeling all her aggression into the nasty, sneering "So Alone," as powerful a rocker as she's ever cut. These shifts in mood are made vivid by a production that has just enough color and detail — looped rhythms or synthesizers, duets with Richard Butler and Nada Surf's Matthew Caws — to turn these recordings into full-blooded realizations of Hatfield's heartbreaking, witheringly funny songs, giving How to Walk Away a sense of musical momentum that suits its emotional heft. It's a tight, cohesive record with a subtle but undeniable resonance, a record that Juliana Hatfield always seemed on the verge of delivering and finally has.

Biography

Born: 27 July 1967 in Wiscasset, ME

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After Juliana Hatfield disbanded the jangle pop trio the Blake Babies in 1990, she launched a solo career, performing similarly melodic indie guitar pop. Singing in an endearingly thin voice, Hatfield married her ringing hooks to sweet, lovelorn pop and startlingly honest confessional songs. Her 1992 solo debut, Hey Babe, became a college radio hit, and its follow-up, 1994's Become What You Are, was primed to become a crossover success in the wake of the commercialization of alternative rock. Although...
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How to Walk Away, Juliana Hatfield
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