After guesting on each other’s albums, singer-songwriters Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws found they shared some musical DNA and decided to write and perform as a duo. The resulting collaboration between the veteran alt-rockers is Minor Alps, and Get There is their debut effort.
Caws, the frontman for Nada Surf, and solo artist Hatfield, formerly of Blake Babies and The Lemonheads, have both matured as songwriters in the 20 years since each flirted with mainstream success. (Nada Surf’s “Popular” and Hatfield’s “My Sister” and “Universal Heartbeat” were MTV staples in the mid-90s.)
The two played all the instruments on Get There, and rather than trade off, they share vocal dual duties throughout. Their voices blend nicely but not too distinctively. First single “Buried Plans” begins with synths and electronic percussion before switching to the guitars that most of the songs.
Much of Get There is about the struggle to connect: to others, your own feelings and, perhaps, an audience after two decades of plying your trade as a singer-songwriter. “It’s so easy to stop trying/When no one is watching you dying,” they sing on “Wish You Were Upstairs.” The metaphor that opens “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands” extends this disjointed feeling: “The couch is an island/A desert oasis/The room is a spaceship/And you’re an undiscovered planet.”
“Mixed Feelings” launches the second half of the record like a pressure valve being blown open. “Stuff your feelings back in your mouth,” the pair intone on the balls-out rocker, a welcome shot of adrenaline after six tracks of mellow folk-rock that will offend no one but may leave you feeling ‘90s “Alternative Nation” nostalgia.
There’s nothing groundbreaking or vital in the 11 songs collected here. It’s adult alternative lifestyle music that will offend no one, and it should make a pleasantly unobtrusive soundtrack for sipping frothy lattes or perusing the Pottery Barn catalog for new drapes.