“I wasn’t planning on making a record,” says Juliana Hatfield, of her new “Pussycat” album. In fact, she thought her songwriting career was on hiatus, and that she had nothing left to say in song form; that she had finally said it all after two decades as a recording artist.
But then the presidential election happened. “All of these songs just started pouring out of me. And I felt an urgency to record them, to get them down, and get them out there.”
She booked some time at Q Division studios in Somerville, Massachusetts near her home in Cambridge and went in with a drummer (Pete Caldes), an engineer (Pat DiCenso) and fifteen brand-new songs.
Hatfield produced and played every instrument other than drums—bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals. From start to finish—recording through mixing—the whole thing took a total of just twelve and a half days to complete.
“It was a blur. It was cathartic,” says Hatfield. “I almost don’t even understand what happened in there, or how it came together so smoothly, so quickly. I was there, directing it all, managing it, getting it all done, but I was being swept along by some force that was driving and controlling me. The songs had a will, they forced themselves on me, or out of me, and I did what they told me to do. Even my hands—it felt like they were not my hands. I played bass differently– looser, more confident, better.”
“Pussycat” comes on the heels of last year’s Hatfield collaboration with Paul Westerberg , the I Don’t Cares’ “Wild Stab” album, and before that, 2015’s Juliana Hatfield Three (“My Sister”, “Spin The Bottle”) reunion/reformation album, “Whatever, My Love”.
“I’ve always been prolific and productive and I have a good solid work ethic but this one happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think or plan,” says Hatfield. “I just went with it, rode the wave. And now it is out of my hands. It feels a little scary.”
”Pussycat” is being released into a very tense, divided and inflamed America. The songs are reflective of that atmosphere—angry (“When You’re A Star”), defiant (“Touch You Again”), disgusted (“Rhinoceros”), but also funny (“Short-Fingered Man”), reflective (“Wonder Why”), righteous (“Heartless”) and even hopeful (“Impossible Song”, with its chorus of ‘What if we tried to get along/and sing an impossible song’).
Ports of Spain
From the back of the bar, Ports of Spain instantly scan as a full band, so it's a shock to discover their mathy shoegaze-pop is constructed by just two musicians . Ilya Gitelman uses octave pedals and loops to play lead, bass and rhythm guitar simultaneously, while Sam Carlson contributes vocals, keyboards and drums. Don't be fooled -- Ports of Spain are not another band that trades directionless loopy jazz odysseys for pure songcraft. Their equipment never gets in the way of their complex melodies. They write actual songs, consistently avoiding complication for the sake of complication. They juggle tons of ideas in every song, creating a noise that's consistently about to fall apart. That it doesn't is incredible by itself. Their brilliant songs may seem like a bonus under these circumstances, but don't underrate Ports of Spain. Even as these two guys spew chaos into crowded clubs, their songwriting is always there to remind you why a grounding in planned songcraft keeps so many of the best bands tethered to excellence. Ports of Spain belong in their company. Ports of Spain have played with bands like Tera Melos, Hospitality, Beach Fossils, Fang Island, Pissed Jeans, Pile, ONWE, Speedy Ortiz, Morning Teleportation, Kal Marks, The Paper Kites, and Solids.
"Ports of Spain is a small band with a large potential for success."
- Paste Magazine
"Gitelman re-creates parts he played in the studio — sinewy chord progressions, sub-octave bass riffs, surf-rock strumming patterns and arpeggios — without necessarily being constricted by them, and also sings. Carlson croons bright melodies, plays tom-driven beats, bashes cymbals and works a keyboard with one hand. Each man's routine is a tightrope act, synchronized with the other's."
- The Courant
"Ports of Spain goes a sonic step beyond the two-man band paradigm."
- Connecticut Post
"New Haven's Ports of Spain are Worth Seeing Over and Over"
- The New Haven Advocate