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CD Review: Juliana Hatfield

Peace + Love (Ye Olde)

For some people, Juliana Hatfield will forever be the girlish-voiced ingénue who graced the cover of Spin and the Reality Bites soundtrack. Crippling depression stalled her career, and it took several years for her to regain her musical footing. Her past three albums have been quite good, veering between streamlined pop-rock in the mold of Sheryl Crow (2004's In Exile Deo), prickly low-fi rock (2005's Made In China) and a middle ground that explored a huskier vocal range (2008's How to Walk Away). Along the way, her unaffected candor and painful insecurity blossomed into a knowing acceptance that's still tinged with keen, caustic wit.

Overall, she's become more hopeful, as demonstrated with the confessed faith of Peace + Love's title track. Largely acoustic, it's her most singer-songwriter-oriented album, with an unassuming simplicity that plays up her pop sensibilities. That said, the first half is a tad frictionless, drifting by pleasantly without driving deep stakes into one's attention. The mid-album electric instrumental "Unsung" signals a turn, and tracks like the jangly "I Picked You Up," the post-breakup recovery "Faith in Our Friends" and the bluesy, harmonica-abetted "Dear Anonymous" redeem the record. — Chris Parker

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