January - Keep Me From Sleeping (Ticklebee) - The
Boston Phoenix The Noise Lollipop Magazine Sound Check Instant Magazine University Reporter
Keep Me From Sleeping picked as one of the top 10 CDs of 1997 by 24-7
This is January's second release and to put it quite simply, this rocks!! Christine Zuffrey's vocals are in top form and the band's overall sound has filled out and matured in leaps and bounds since their previous release "See-Thru." The band's newest member, bassist Erin Anderson, is responsible for the production and engineering on this disc and she has done a superb job. There isn't a dull moment on this disc, from the opening song "Fleece" to the rocking "Fuzzy Sweet," right down to the last track "Dinosaurs," January's upbeat pop/punk/goth rock keeps the listener's attention peaked throughout the entire disc.
by Brett Milano
A few months ago in this column, I suggested that major-label A&R types ought to come sniffing in January's direction. None of them has yet, but the band have made a solid sophomore effort on their own with Keep Me from Sleeping Keep Me from Sleeping (on their own Ticklebee label). Like their first disc (See Thru, also self-released), this one reveals a band with an intriguing hybrid of a sound, which I'd still call "garage goth" for lack of a better term. It's dark and atmospheric, but it rocks. Unlike the first disc, this one has proper production. New bassist Erin Anderson is also the producer and engineer, and she gives January a big, arena-ish sound that suits them better than the modest indie-rock sound of the debut. (It's also a plus that this disc doesn't include a silly cover to follow up the last one's "Oompa-Loompa-Doompity-Do," from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory .)
On paper it seems unlikely that January's two principals would wind up in the same band: Christine Zufferey sings in a theatrical, heavily accented (she's Swiss) style whereas Jeff Caglarcan is a more basic rocker. But they're compatible in ways you wouldn't expect. The mix works best on the heavier numbers, which fill the first half of this half-hour disc. "Fleece" (repeated from a single last fall) is the standout, with a mighty invigorating blend of Zufferey's vocal flights and a lowdown, grinding riff from Caglarcan (Chris Newborn plays drums). The more ethereal numbers that turn up later aren't bad either, thanks to an improved sense of melody.
"Happy" introduces some good-old pop angst, with Zufferey asking "What's wrong with me; why can't I be happy?" in the choruses. She tends to be visually striking on stage, so let's give January a few more points for not doing the obvious and putting any band photos (save for one blurry one) on either of their CDs.
Garage Goth That's Worth Some A&R Bucks
by Brett Milano
I'd be the first to admit that a lot of the local music that's struck my fancy over the past few years hasn't had the most obvious commercial potential. Sometimes I'm grateful I don't have one of those major label A&R jobs, or else I'd still be smarting from those million dollar contracts I gave to Chevy Heston and the Bentmen, and from my attempts to service Scissorfight's "Planet of Ass" to AOR radio.
Sometimes, however, a band shows up who is obviously good and obviously sellable. And if I had one of those big expense accounts, I'd fling some money in January's direction. Watching the band perform before a packed-in crowd at Inman Square's tiny Back Alley Theatre two Sundays ago, one could imagine their kind of high-volume intrigue translating to a larger setting. Lead singer/rhythm-guitarist Christine Zufferey, who moved here from Switzerland four years ago, cuts a theatrical figure on stage -- the woman's eyeliner bill must be enormous -- and sings in a very European, cabaret-ish style. But she's fronting a band who don't have an ethereal bone in their bodies. Guitarist Jeff Caglarcan grins away in the background while piling on the power chords. It's a mix nobody else has tried lately; I'd call it garage goth if such a subgenre existed. January next plays this coming Thursday, December 5, at T.T. the Bear's Place, with St. Chimerae.
Off stage as on, Zufferey and Caglarcan -- who started collaborating on demos in 1994, before bringing in drummer Chris Newbern and bassist Marc Hunt, lately replaced by Erin Anderson -- are a study in opposites: the singer is quiet and mysterious, the guitarist a down-to-earth rock type. "I personally find it a kick to be in a band with Christine," Caglarcan notes over tea (his), cider (hers), and wine (mine) at the Middle East. "I can get away with kicking back and playing chords because she's the center of attention, whether she thinks of herself that way or not."
"I really don't think I am," Zufferey responds. "I'm more into trying to pass on a certain emotion and a certain energy; and if people can respond to that, it's what I'm looking for." Zufferey admires Diamanda Galas and P.J. Harvey and likes to write when she's depressed; Caglarcan figures he'd be in a pop band if the two hadn't linked up. "I have a tendency to like the darker stuff, and he likes the lighter things, so we balance each other," she says. "Her roots are in metal and I used to play in a hardcore punk band, so we're natural antagonists anyway," Caglarcan adds.
January's album, See-Thru (on their own, unnamed label), was quietly released earlier this year, but it was reserviced to radio and retail this month, with a new vinyl single, "Fleece"/"My Limousine," released concurrently. Although it was done with the previous bassist and the production's a bit rough, the album is true enough to their live sound, even if the psychedelic tendencies are more pronounced. "Way" is the slowest and least catchy of their tunes, but it benefits from a slow build-up and a sitar-ish acoustic part. "Standstill" reminds me of Jefferson Airplane's trippier moments, with a bit of Bob Mould slash guitar thrown in for good measure. The least characteristic song on either release is the one they've become most famous for: "Oompa-Loompa-Doompadee-Doo" is the song fromWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and it's extremely goofy. Somebody had to cover it sooner or later -- you'd think Veruca Salt would have got there first, in view of their Wonka-inspired name -- but it's a surprise coming from this rather serious band. "I'll admit I was in favor of putting it on the album," Caglarcan says. "It's gotten us some attention we wouldn't have gotten otherwise."
The single shows what they can do with a few production improvements -- a bigger bass sound, a little cosmetic echo in the vocals. "Fleece" is the big three-minute pop tune that the album's best moments hint at; "Limousine" sports a jazzier touch and an intriguing song angle: "I'm naked in my dreams," goes the chorus. Implications? "A contrast between what you're supposed to be and what you could be," says Zufferey. "I was thinking of a dream state where you can tell everybody what you really think." Sounds like a good metaphor for being in a rock band.
- Boston Phoenix, November 29, 1996
October used to be my favorite month until I heard January. Crashing lead guitars, loud thudding bass and potent percussion that sound like they were thrown together in a blender and shredded on liquefy. Lead guitarist and vocalist, Christine Zufferey, has a powerful and clarion voice that sucks you in a forces you to listen. The mix on this record is gigantic - kinda like when you start nodding off watching TV and one of the loud commercials comes on and rouses you out of your slumber. "My Limousine" is not really about a fancy car, but being naked. Ms. Zufferey uses it as a metaphor for shame and the way her significant other makes her feel: "In my dreams in my own limousine/I can drive naked and never care/I can give your seat away/you can walk home today!/No, I don't have to take you anywhere!" Whoa. You go girlfriend! Ditch that loser and pick up a new passenger.
- The Noise
Are you studying Etymology of the Oompa-Loompa? Is the movie Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory a sequence of aphorisms and valuable sermons that describe and define life as you know it? I request the honor of speaking the panegyric of January. No, not the month, but a first (in a while) for Boston. An operatic woman alien from Switzerland comes partially adorned in arabesque eyeliner, d.b.a. Christine Zufferey. Jeff Caglarcan (lead guitarist) is the comic book character. Some see him as the funny hero archetype (making him the Archie or the Josie and the Pussycats character). Erin Anderson, the other mysterious female, plays bass with surprisingly funky grooves. Chris Newbern is a schizophrenic and honorary alien on two counts -- he's both a drummer and a New Jersey native! Making reality even stranger than fiction, his style ranges from Pantera to Salsa. Together they form a female-fronted Elixir (pun intended) Smashing Pumpkin age of big guitar mood pop. Starting as a 4-track project of Jeff and Christine's, Nectar oozed into January and coagulated into their 9-song CD, See-Thru, thus beginning a much needed movement for those lost in the interstices (or interspecies) between the heavy mantle of goth and the dimple-cheeked grin of pop. With January you can be comfortable on or in the middle of that road to wherever it is you want to go. The band has stated in previous interviews that their influences range from P.J. Harvey to Diamanda Galas, so that should be a hint.
October 17 nicely correlates a gig at Mama Kin with the release of their new 2-song 7" "Fleece"/"My Limousine." I urge you to pick up the 7" and go see the freakin' show.
The choice is yours: l) turn into a giant blueberry or a rotten egg, or 2) taste the Everlasting Gob-Stopper, January.
- The Noise
"Their set was not so much a collection of songs as a single movement arriving with waves of rhythmic heights. "Take Me There" set the tone early on: syncopated drums, a bass that bounced and thumped, snarly bursts from the guitar, and the distinctive voice of the lead singer, Christine Zufferey."
- The Noise
"Keep an eye on these guys. With a voice as strong as P.J. Harvey and a sense of melodic rock that doesn't suck, January (with any luck) will undoubtedly be the next band to be pounced upon by the majors. The only difference is, this time I approve. It' s pleasant surprises like this that keep this job interesting. Bonus marks for including the Oompa Loompa song from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ."
- Lollipop Magazine
"We've got a fine ripe bunch of alternative bananas here. Powerful guitar hooks and Christine Zufferey's true vocals throughout. But I'm just nuts about this song "See With." Got a dark verse that blooms into a big guitar chorus that Spring would be proud of."
- Sound Check
January has a very alluring appeal to its sound. It is seductive and entrancing but can also rock. Each player proves that they can hold their own and the songs come together very nicely. "Fleece" is probably one of the best songs January has written to date. It encompasses everything that has gotten them noticed. "My Limousine" is a very generous b-side, they could have held it off for another a-side.
- Instant Magazine
"This is one pretty damn good CD. Christine Zufferey is a fine vocalist who will help to get this band noticed."
- Instant Magazine
"Christine Zufferey belts out her sultry lyrics with the kind of passion that only the truly angst ridden can manufacture. They bring to mind early Smashing Pumpkins and the sadly defunct Mary's Danish."
- University Reporter
January almost seem to craft songs rather than write them.
Terrific melodies, beautiful vocals, and excellent instrumentation all
work together to make a January composition special. The are
songs dense and sound complete. You can tell that care and
precision went into their creation. The band also shows flexibility in
their ability to write a punky all out song like "Fuzzy Sweet" and
follow it with a ballad "Naphtalene" which gives off a slow lounge
song feel. Keep Me From Sleeping marks January as an important
band in the local scene. I can't wait to hear what they do as they
continue to evolve and grow.
-New England Music Archive
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