Sittin’ in a Tree
If you’re like me, you were totally shocked to learn that Sittin’ In a Tree is Juliana Hatfield’s eighteenth recording. I say this mainly because 1) I’m amazed to hear how her voice is as clear and youthful as it was in 1992, and 2) her sound has evolved just enough for fans who put hits like “Supermodel” and “Spin the Bottle” on repeat till their parents threatened to disown them (like they really would have); to know that underneath the languid banjo, mellow steel guitar twang and soft male backing vocals of Frank Smith, the same poppy and almost profound Juliana Hatfield is there singing past it all.
Though your iTunes player might categorize Sittin in a Tree in the genre of country, don’t believe it for a second. Songs like “364” and “On Your Mind’ stand out as particularly well-wrought hybrids of alt country and garage rock, but “Don’t Wanna Be the One” is far too upbeat to make this album too much of a departure from Hatfield’s fundamental sound. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it harder to appreciate the gentler string arrangements over the ubiquitous and sometimes excessive distortion. I’ve always enjoyed the organized chaos of Hatfield’s guitar-fest, but there were songs in which I felt it could have been used a little more sparingly, like “If Only We Were Dogs.” I know, it’s a dirty song, but let’s face it: Hatfield’s strength is not her rawness. “Kitten” basically negates any lyrical edginess, since it’s about, well, losing one’s kitten. And that’s that. Overall, this EP is well worth listening too, especially for long time Hatfield fans and those of us new to Frank Smith, which is a band, not a man. Otherwise, you might want to start with 1993’s Become What You and hang out till you do just that.