In her nearly quarter-century in the music business, Juliana Hatfield has experienced the ups and downs of the popular music industry firsthand. Despite the changing times, she has clung firmly to her fundamentals. Her sound is as moored in the 1990s now as it was when she was soundtracking a Wynona Ryder movie or performing with The Lemonheads. Personal fondness for the era will tilt the appeal of her 11th studio album, There’s Always Another Girl, one way or the other. Her candied, subdued singing voice hasn’t aged a bit, and songs such as Don’t Wanna Dance and Sex and Drugs see Hatfield back in Blake Babies form and feature her underrated guitar work in the form of fuzzed-out solos.
If you can embrace (or at least look past) some antiquated tropes, your next hurdle will be some lyrics that are surprisingly amateurish for such a seasoned veteran. Hatfield is guilty of some painfully literal songwriting, including Taxicab, a song about a cab ride, and Candy Wrappers, a song mostly about a mess of (you guessed it) candy wrappers left on the floor. The worst is Batteries, a song in which she admonishes us on the perils of forgetting to charge our electronics. Nothing says open mic night more than singing lyrics such as The batteries are dead/Totally, completely dead […] Completely fucking dead. It’s bad enough to recall another buried mid-’90s memory: Phoebe Buffay’s agitating coffeehouse performances on Friends.
Still, it’s hard to blame someone for sticking to their guns, and the cult fanbase who helped finance the album’s recording through PledgeMusic.com will no doubt follow her here. You can’t say her heart’s not in the right place, either. Portions of the album’s proceeds will go to support animal shelters in Puerto Rico and New England.
Essential Tracks: Don’t Wanna Dance, Sex and Drugs, and Wasting Time