Fave Five: Juliana Hatfield

Evan Sawdey
Photo: David Doobinin / Think Press

Juliana Hatfield nods her idols on her new album Weird, and celebrates by listing her "Top Five Albums That Were Spun the Most on the Record Player of My Pre-Pubescence".

Juliana Hatfield

American Laundromat

18 January 2019

Increasingly, the question surrounding Juliana Hatfield is simply "What can't she do?"

In a career filled with band breakups (the Blake Babies) and significant solo triumphs, the master of guitar-pop songwriting has really been stretching herself out these last few years. Outside of getting to finally reissue her acclaimed 1992 solo effort Hey Babe, her albums have careened between the political firebrands (2017's Pussycat) and loving homages (last year's aptly-titled Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John), spanning a full breadth of emotions and tones in such a short time.

So for 2019, Hatfield continues her potent brand of catchy songwriting but marries it to lyrics dealing with ennui, alienation, and the difficulty of fitting into modern society with her new studio album Weird. In many ways, the vibe of the album is a bit of a throwback to her early-2000s records, but her maturity and wit is on full display even as she juggles some treacherous topics, just as her idols like the Kinks and the Merge Records family have done before.

So to celebrate the occasion, PopMatters asked Hatfield to fill out her own "Fave Five", this time choosing the topic of "Top Five Albums That Were Spun the Most on the Record Player of My Pre-Pubescence". Given how much she nods her heroes on Weird, it was as fitting a tribute as we could've asked for.

1. The Kinks - Soap Opera (1975)

I don't think I understood that this was a concept album about a rock star living the life of an ordinary working-class man. I just liked the songs. There was so much vivid imagery to amuse my young self: the ducks on the wall, the domestic drama, the man and woman interacting with their funny British accents. It was musical theater brought to life in my mind. It seems to me now, as an adult, that the Kinks have always probably appealed to children. The melodies are so fun and bouncy, but the music is also raw and a little naughty; it's wild youth rock.

2. Queen - Jazz (1978)

It's still my favorite Queen album. I have two copies on vinyl. I bought the second one after I wore out the first one. Brian Mays' guitar sound blew my young mind. It seemed to have come from another planet. It sounded like one guy was playing a hundred guitars at the same time. It filled me with a sense of wonder and possibility. Plus, "Fat-Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race" cracked me up.

3. Carpenters - Carpenters (1971)

It's classic Carpenters. ("Superstar" is on it!) Their melodic and harmonic sensibilities were sublime and the whole album is a master class in song architecture. I'm sure that all of the hours and hours I spent listening has seeped back into my own body of music. The way that they could fit a bunch of words seamlessly, rhythmically, into a sophisticated melody is pretty mindblowing. And it's not easy to do. It can get really complicated and frustrating. But they made it seem easy. And helped give me something to strive for; a standard of excellence.

4. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Grease (1978)

Olivia Newton-John was a major inspiration to me as a girl. Her grace, her charm, her humility, her talent, her work ethic. I saw this movie multiple times in the cinema at the Hanover Mall. At the time I couldn't get enough of it, or of Olivia. It didn't register to me that a 30-year-old woman was playing a teenager. If I were to watch the movie again now I don't know how I would feel. A lot of time has passed. But I do know that I just listened to "You're the One That I Want" and the bass playing is crazily good, and loud, and I never noticed that as a child. So the music, or that song, at least, holds up.

5. Tom Petty - Damn the Torpedoes (1979)

Just a solid, great band and tunes and a unique voice -- cool, unpretentious, smart. And so red. Deep red. Red on red. I could sing the verses of "Here Comes My Girl" exactly, perfectly matching Petty's phrasing and inflections. (" 'cause it just feels so good ... so free ... so right, I know ... we ain't ever gonna ... change our minds ... about it, hey ... here comes my girl")





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.