When two artists who’ve produced great works on their own team-up, often the result is less than the sum of its parts, and sometimes even less than either alone. Think producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse teaming up with James Mercer, the man behind The Shins (QRO live review), for the middling Broken Bells (QRO review). Even the great Love This Giant (QRO review) couldn’t match the solo output from its dual creators – when those two were David Byrne and St. Vincent (QRO spotlight on). Juliana Hatfield (QRO spotlight on) and Matthew Caws (songwriter behind Nada Surf – QRO live review) may not hit their highest solo highs together as Minor Alps on Get There, but it’s definitely a worthwhile collaboration.
With Hatfield and Caws, you’d expect Get There to be some nineties indie-rock explosion, but then it opens with “Buried Plans”, a quiet and enchanting piece. Not every Minor Alps song sides towards the small beauty, but there are a number of them, including the very natural and woodwind “Maxon” and closer “Away Again”, or the restrained, haunting beauty of “Radio Static”. Even the indie-rock procession “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands” is a darkening one, while back-to-back penultimate “Lonely Low” and “Waiting For You” are sweet strums. Only the speedy garage of “Mixed Feelings” feels particularly ‘rock’, and even then it’s this century’s garage, not last century’s alternative.
Minor Alps is still probably a side-project/diversion for both Caws and Hatfield, in between their ‘main gigs’ (though it’s nice that Hatfield didn’t follow through on her suggestion of quitting music – QRO interview). However, it’s a side-project worth doing, especially amidst all of the ones that aren’t.