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Sarah Tomlinson

Juliana Hatfield MADE IN CHINA

”I am a confused, sloppy, childish, conflicted mess,” Juliana Hatfield confesses in the personal statement accompanying ”Made in China,” her first solo album for her own label, Ye Olde Records. The local singer-songwriter has made a career of such candor since breaking out with the Blake Babies in the late ’80s and as a prolific solo artist for more than a decade. Hatfield’s new album is just as revealing, from the photograph of her bare torso on its cover, to her searching lyrics about love, fame, and the difficulty of personal and cultural fulfillment. But she seems more in control of her disclosures than in the past. The album is taut and forceful — thanks to Hatfield’s production and muscular playing by her backing musicians, including local power pop trio Unbusted and bassist Ed Valauskas and drummer Pete Caldes of The Gentlemen. It also dares a wide range of moods and textures. Brooding album opener ”New Waif” and the melancholy ballad ”Hole in the Sky” have classic girl group charm. ”What Do I Care” is all edgy dissonance, as her bratty vocals chip at a wall of wiry guitar and sludgy bass. ”Oh” finds her exuding sultry menace as she plays all of the instruments herself. Hatfield shows that neither her increasing confidence as a songwriter and musician, nor her ongoing discomfort with her public image, have diminished her artistic courage. Hatfield is at the Paradise Aug. 20 with the Gentlemen and Furvis.