Peace And Love, Juliana Hatfield's latest album, will be released on February 16, 2010 on Ye Olde Records. Hatfield, of course, has a long history of DIY endeavors - from her trailblazing days with Boston indie band the Blake Babies to her recent releases on Ye Olde Records, the label she founded in 2005 - but with Peace And Love she reaches a new level of independence. She produced and engineered the album herself and played all the instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, piano, harmonica and drum machine.
"I've produced records before but I was always in a studio with professional engineers. So it was definitely a learning process for me," says Hatfield, who was ready to strip things down after her critically acclaimed 2008 album, How To Walk Away, which was a full studio production. "I always like to try things I've never done before and I'd been yearning to record myself."
Hatfield had just purchased her brother's eight-track digital recorder and moved into a Cambridge apartment with a back room that had excellent natural acoustics, so the time was right. "I was able to follow every instinct without worrying that anyone was going to think it was a kooky idea," she recalls. "I just wanted to do something simple."
The result is an incredibly intimate collection of songs, expertly capturing the loneliness and collateral damage borne of broken relationships yet adamantly refusing to remain broken. In the liner notes, Boston Phoenix music editor James Parker gives it a name: "Survivor-music - because even at their most palpitatingly fragile, your songs have always been built to last. Well-made, strong-boned, fit to be played on streetcorners and station platforms."
Just as Hatfield stripped down the recording process, the characters that populate Peace And Love are ready to shed their convoluted lives. The lilting "Why Can't We Love Each Other" answers its own question by acknowledging that love is a choice: "we can make our lives a song/will it be a blues or a hymn/a dirge or a psalm/it could be so simple." But there's the rub, of course: it could be so simple...if it weren't for our propensity to muck things up.
From the plucked Elizabethan chords that introduce the opening "Peace And Love" and the feedback-drenched "What Is Wrong" to "Unsung," Hatfield's first-ever instrumental, and the closing "Dear Anonymous," written from the point of view of a victim who finds empathy for her stalker, the collection is both compelling and surprising. "Faith In Our Friends" celebrates those who "think you're just right the way you are" while Hatfield gains fresh perspective on her complex relationship with longtime friend Evan Dando on the exquisite, ethereal "Evan."
Peace And Love is Hatfield's 11th solo album and follows last year's How To Walk Away, which was hailed as "rueful and gorgeous," by Entertainment Weekly, which gave the album an A-. "After 20 years, the songstress still packs a wallop on her 10th album, featuring edgy tales of heartbreak sung with that classic sweetness," said Newsweek, naming it a "Checklist" pick of the week upon its release while Spin pronounced it "vital," awarding it three out of four stars. Her autobiography, entitled When I Grow Up, was published by Wiley & Sons in September 2008.
Hatfield first came to prominence in her teens as a founding member of the Blake Babies. After four independent albums with the group, she signed to Atlantic as a solo artist and had a string of modern-rock hits (including "My Sister," "Spin The Bottle" and "Universal Heartbeat"). She left the label in 1998, signing to Zoe Records (a Rounder Records imprint) and releasing four well-regarded albums, including 2004's In Exile Deo, named as one of that year's 10 best albums by The New York Times' Jon Pareles. In 2005, Hatfield came full circle, returning to her independent roots and founding Ye Olde Records.