The Phoenix has ever loved her, of course, but so what? This is no faded boosterism or pampering of the local darling. In Juliana, we have a genuine, deep-field weirdo on our hands, a visitor from the musical elsewhere, now 20 years into her career. Looking around at the popscape, I wonder who she sees as her peers. “My peers? Hmm. I don’t think I have any.” None? Does she then regard herself as peerless? “No! It’s just — I dunno. I feel like I’m an outsider and I don’t fit in anywhere . . . Someone like Nada Surf, maybe? Women, I don’t know. Who do you think my peers are?” Don’t ask me: I spend all day listening to Mott the Hoople. But I can’t imagine that the Hatfield songbook, with its unique radar-scramble of frailty, pugnacity, wit, and romanticism, its raggedy sex songs and elegies to baby birds, is too readily matched. Her honesty, for one thing, is caustic. “I just don’t want there to be any mysteries surrounding me,” she says, “I don’t want people to have any assumptions about me, I just want them to know what goes on in my head so they don’t have to speculate. I’m fascinated by the darkness inside of people. And it’s comforting to know that somebody who looks like they have it all together — they don’t have it all together.” A small, not-entirely-convinced smile. “So maybe I can comfort somebody too.”
Interview over. A breeze is getting up, and an impressive ringmaster of a cloud, a portly and dark-bottomed cumulonimbus, has installed itself above the setting sun as if to supervise the coming display. Hatfield tenses her shoulders. “I look at the sky a lot and if I see one of those big clouds I get really nervous. They’re terrible to fly through.” Yes, terrible, terrible. But glorious, too, if you’re making your own weather.
James Parker is getting better, thank you. He can be reached at email@example.com.
: Music Features
, Black Sabbath, Harvard University, Juliana Hatfield, More