Over the last two decades, both Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws have carved out long-lasting – and strikingly independent – careers within a dependably fickle music business, Caws with his now 20-year-old New York City group Nada Surf, and Hatfield with the Boston-reared Blake Babies, the Juliana Hatfield Three, Some Girls, as well as a number of releases under her own name. They first worked together in 2008 when he added vocals to the song ‘Such a Beautiful Girl’ from her album How to Walk Away. She quickly returned the favor, singing on the Nada Surf b-side ‘I Wanna Take You Home’.
It was clear from these brief encounters that their voices and sensibilities are almost preternaturally harmonious – or, more accurately (as illustrated throughout their new album Get There, recorded under the name Minor Alps), it can be difficult at times to distinguish between their voices, or to know where one’s ideas might end and the other’s begin. As Hatfield declares, “In certain ranges, the tones of our voices are so similar I can’t tell which is which. I haven’t experienced that with any other singer.” It’s as if they were always meant to perform together, and the pair has, luckily for us, finally realized it.
Hatfield and Caws not only share lead vocals and co-writing credit on each of the eleven songs that comprise Get There; aside from some drumming and programming by Parker Kindred (Jeff Buckley, Antony and the Johnsons) and Chris Egan (Solange, Computer Magic), the pair plays every instrument and conjures every sound – from primitive electronic dub pulse (‘Buried Plans’)-- to straight-up rock hook (‘I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands’) to stripped-down electric guitar punch (‘Mixed Feelings’) to eerie trance-allure (‘Radio Static’) to hypnotic guitar drone (‘Waiting For You’).
It’s not just the timbre of the voices and the shared vision of their musical explorations, but the emotional tone of their songs and lyrics that blends so seamlessly. Their attraction to themes of restless solitude and constant longing have always been a compelling part of their individual repertoires, and Minor Alps expresses an ageless existential yearning tempered by hard-fought wisdom, maturity, or maybe just acceptance of certain eternal truths. As they ruefully admit in ‘If I Wanted Trouble,’ “This growing up never ends/ The same mistakes come back again…”
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