Juliana Hatfield’s inherent melancholy is oddly comforting—mostly because her misery-chick persona never devolves into caricature or insincerity. In fact, the onetime Blake Babies member/longtime solo artist perfects the art of tasteful longing and nostalgia on How to Walk Away, her latest effort.
Produced by Andy Chase of Ivy, Walk Away benefits from his sophisti-pop influence in the form of subtle electronic beats and plenty of smoothed-over piano, helping Hatfield shed the little-girl flourishes of past releases. “I finally wised up, but the fact remains I stayed too long,” Hatfield sings on “The Fact Remains,” her flat, resigned vocals matched by minor-chord acoustic strums. “This Lonely Love”—a duet with The Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler—is just as its name implies, a keening, string-frosted lament reminiscent of a swinging ’60s hit. Matthew Caws of Nada Surf joins her on the lullaby “Such a Beautiful Girl,” while downcast keyboards and layers of breathy harmonies give way to strings on the ethereal “Shining On.”
As with most Hatfield solo albums of late, the middling tempos and overwhelming melancholy can grow cloying. Walk Away might have made a greater impact had it contained more songs in the vein of self-empowered rocker “Now I’m Gone,” which gains its muscle thanks to a riff nicked from the Stones.
The bottom line: ***1/2