Lauren Hoffman, homeward bound

Lauren Hoffman, homeward bound

Lauren Hoffman has released final albums before. In a 2000 issue of C-VILLE, Stephen “Cripsy Duck” Barling wrote on the occasion of her departure from town that local songwriter Hoffman, then 23 years old, was “just gone. No more music. Moving to London. See ya.” During a recent meeting at C’ville Coffee, Hoffman—now in her early 30s, once more a Charlottesville resident and more than a year into motherhood—confirmed as much. Her father, she said, once equated her quitting music to “saying you won’t fall in love before meeting the person.”

Coming in for a landing: Lauren Hoffman releases Interplanetary Traveler on January 12, but don’t hold your breath for a live show—enjoy the album for what it is.

That being said, is Interplanetary Traveler—Hoffman’s first album since 2006’s Choreography and fourth since 1997’s Megiddo, due out January 12—her last album? Really, truly? Game over?

A slight smile lines her porcelain face. “I think so,” she says.

If so, then what has Hoffman left us with? What sort of exit is it? Nothing like the extended break Hoffman took from recording music after the release of From the Blue House, a seven-year distance from the discord between the songwriter and Virgin Records. Nor is it the sort of salt-sowing declaration Hoffman might’ve made circa Megiddo when, a fan recently e-mailed to tell her, Hoffman advised her to burn an ex-boyfriend’s things.
“No,” she responds when asked whether she remembers writing such a letter. “But I was a different person at the time.”

Rather, Interplanetary Traveler is a departure that redelivers Hoffman to our midst—a “No-place-like-home” heel-click that teases into new territory only to remind listener and musician alike that some of Hoffman’s most familiar gifts are still her finest. Namely, Hoffman stands by the most onomatopoetic elements of “pop”: instinctive melodies, a few essential horn lines, an admirable directness in her prose complicated by a flinch or flutter in her vocals.

It’s an album that “sounds like it could’ve been made in Charlottesville,” but came together over a few years and excursions—largely written while touring for Choreography in India, recorded in Israel with a band that performed at her mother’s wedding. It’s also a batch of songs that, completed, makes no demands of its composer; asked whether she’d perform locally, Hoffman responded, “I’d rather go to bed early.”

Will she perform at all? “To me personally, being a parent means not dragging a kid around” on tour, says Hoffman. “Not involving my kid in the soap opera of mommy’s life.” Her daughter stands by Hoffman’s friend Gwenn, toddles around the kids’ area while we talk, offers her mother a grape. Hoffman eats it, smiles again.

“I had a very tumultuous relationship with my family as a child,” says Hoffman. “I want my house, 35 years from now, to be ‘mommy’s house.’” No one can tell Hoffman she quit on love or music too soon; she came back too many times. Now, with her daughter nearby, who could fault her for, perhaps finally, ending her travels?

Are you going to Paul Curreri?

Feedback puns on PC’s 2006 live album title, but is dead serious about catching Curreri’s return to the local stage after his recent tour of the United Kingdom. Curreri spent a fair deal of the last year working on his follow-up to 2007’s The Velvet Rut, the soon-to-be-released California, as well as nursing a swollen vocal cord that flared up a bit during his UK gigs. He’ll bring reinforcements—namely, a full band—to The Southern on Friday, December 18.