Janus 4-14’s “To/From”

“Following a couple slightly forgettable tracks, a sweet departure is found in the likable . . .”-HE (Read More!)

Holly Etchison

out of 10

Janus 4-14
September 14, 2010

Ah, the nineties … a decade of musical meldings and mutinies. Somewhere between the reemergence of bell bottoms, minis, and knee highs and the public embrace of flannels and torn tees, somewhere between Dee-lite and Kurt Cobain, brit pop met alternative rock and roll. Bands like Teenage Fanclub and Buffalo Tom recalled a simpler, poppier time-a little ‘Love, love me do’ tinged with a bit of pre-pre-millennial angst, a little Jared Leto meets Clare Danes meets impossible romance. Call me misguided, but I’d say Janus 4-14 may’ve caught that wave and are riding it into the second decade of the 21rst century.

With guitar that seems to get ahead of itself and then tries to keep up, the upbeat “Unsure Hands” opens the To/From with the admission: “I think you’d be better in the hands of somebody else.” “It’s Too Late” follows with some retro 60s guitar solo in the middle, traces of a banjo (?) and another coy lyric, “our corrected mistakes haunt you, what are you gonna do.”

Following a couple slightly forgettable tracks, a sweet departure is found in the likable “Just Like a Movie Screen,” easily a slow dance in a high school movie’s prom scene, or wedged into the soundtrack for a romantic dramedy. The vocals are sincere, the lyrics reflective: “With all the demons in your head, how could you be alone…you just gotta breathe, you just gotta breathe.” Someone is leaving in a taxi, looking forlornly out the window; the steady drum beat and rhythm guitar do not excite, neither do they offend.

The seasoned king or queen of quirk/mellow/space age might find To/From off-putting at first (I did), but upon closer listen, might realize plaintive pop ballads subtly clever in the art of befouled relationships (see: a less complicated, more American Elvis Costello, just starting out). Something encourages me to hang in there with this group; with a sound unpredictable in its predictability, Janus 4-14 are, at the very least, getting to the point.