The Januaries, s/t (Foodchain)
This is certainly surprising.
The Januaries playfully mix 60s pop, exotica and future pop. Singer Debbie Diamond’s (could it be?…nah) voice is part Laetitia Sadler and part Justine Frischman. It difficult to discern whether her pronunciation is truly foreign or just well-mimicked. One gets the impression that, sometimes, the Januaries are too clever for their own good. Which would, of course, point to them actually being foreigners or just being studio gearheads with a sultry-voiced singer. Throughout the album, the Januaries have their kitschy pop deconstructed by faultless production. A little bit of buzz and squeaks would help authenticate the sound. Especially since so many of their melodies remind the listener of something he has heard before.
“Juliette,” the opening track, is immediately familiar. As in many of the group’s tunes, the verse is pleasantly and authentically retro but the chorus is … a bit schmaltzy. In their effort to make a big chorus, they miss the authentic mark and sound a bit too song-writerly. Still, Diamond’s voice during the verses is worth the listen. Especially for the Ah-ah’s and Oh’s. The second track “Black Transmission” could be from a Gert Wilden soundtrack. The fuzz guitar and blaring horn punctuations (think Batman’s “BIFF!” sound) take the listener back to kitsch-y 1960s b-movies, but the chorus sounds like Elastica. The chorus doesn’t bring down the vibe here but sounds a bit less identifiable.
“Love Met the Devil” is a great example of the band’s embrace of 60s ideals and 21st century technology. The song is driven along by a subdued drum machine and electronic sounds. The tune is a bit hit and miss. The production is so slick and inhuman that the song suffers. “Cinema Girl” and “The Girl’s Insane” continue the b-movie sound with a touch of Brit-pop.
The real highlight is the sixth song, “Love has Flown.” Its joyous, bright horn melody kicks the song into gear. All the elements come together perfectly here. Diamond’s voice is sexy but not overly emphasized and the chorus matches brilliantly. Even the third verse brings in a dusty drum machine beat which doesn’t sound out of place.
“Angel Eyes” is another wonderfully executed song. Diamond’s voice spacing out the syllables of “I … get … hyp … no … tized … by … your … eye” is hypnotizing in itself. The glossy modern rock guitars and horns co-exist in harmony here.
Still, an atmosphere of inauthenticity lingers. Is it the slick production? Is it the songs? Too much deliberation can make a good thing bad. The Januaries might have deliberated longer than I have already. The best bits beg for repeat playings and there’s no reason every record should just tear your head off. There’s always room for more kitchsy, 60s throwback pop. In that niche exist the Januaries.