Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws have each been doing their own thing for some time now, the latter with NYC’s Nada Surf and Hatfield with Boston’s Blake Babies. Hatfield has also released albums under her own name as well as recording other material with The Juliana Hatfield Three and Some Girls. The first time these two came together was back in 2008 when Caws added vocals to the Hatfield song ‘Such a Beautiful Girl’ from her album How To Walk Away.
It has taken them some time, but Get There is their first full-length album collaboration under the rather mysterious name of Minor Alps. Their voices are really hard to separate at times as they complement each other wonderfully. Hatfield herself has even said that, ‘In certain ranges, the tones of our voices are so similar I can’t tell which is which.’
In contrast to the cover of the album, which is rather bleak and foreboding, ‘Get There’ is a collection of eleven lushly produced songs from the duo. They recorded everything themselves except for drumming and programming, which came from Parker Kindred (Jeff Buckley and Antony and the Johnsons) and Chris Egan (Solange and Computer Magic).
The title suggests a climb or a journey to reach a certain point / peak and there is a great sense of longing throughout the album. The opening track is a stay-at-home track – ‘Such a loner / hardly bring over / I keep everything as quiet as I can.’ It is darker and more introvert, portraying a fear of having any hopes; hence the title ‘Buried Plans.’ One of the catchiest and a definite radio hit is the song ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands’. Here we have someone sitting around struggling with cabin fever, waiting for something to change. There is the temptation of being mischievous in ‘If I Wanted Trouble’, they sing, ‘this growing up, it never ends’, which can be seen as an admission that they do give in to these temptations from time to time.
Lyrically, there are depictions of everyday life, both inside and outside but many are focussed on home life with the lack of someone or something needed to complete a true home. ‘Wish you were upstairs’ is one of those songs that expresses longing and loneliness – ‘it’s so easy to stop trying / when no one’s watching me dying.’ This is one of the smoother songs on the record but the duo are not afraid to crank up the levels on the guitars as they do on ‘Mixed Feelings’ for one. Again there is a feeling of being trapped and housebound – ‘The sun’s not working on me. It doesn’t make me want to leave the house.’ To sign off the album, there is a sense that they have finally found some fulfilment but the fear of loss still lingers – ‘Don’t send me away again. I won’t send you away again.’
Review by: Philip Soanes