taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

JANUS 4-14 — Janus 4-14

In a climate not at all adverse to risk-taking in music, sometimes it’s advisable to fill the spaces between the challenging with the familiar. On Janus 4-14’s self-titled debut EP, the Mt. Airy indie pop band doesn’t exactly take a lot of chances in its willingness to please, but the five-song offering is a like a warm cup of tomato soup on a rainy day; uncomplicated and not entirely filling, but comforting nonetheless. Opener “Unsure Hands” is like Pavement stripped of its fuzz; bright and sunny tunes with simple themes that’s nostalgic of pre-grunge college radio pop. At their core, all five songs feel the same, but its subtle variations in instrumentation that define them. The gentle synth that permeates “It’s Too Late” floats underneath zig-zagging power chords as a dotty banjo layer is introduced. “Would You Be Home?” plays with a hard hi-hat and beachy guitar riffs, but its cheeky verbal wit stands out the most. Other times, however, the songwriting can be a bit tedious. Credit EP ender “Just Like a Movie Screen” for its innocent sincerity and the affecting, hopeful ideas it conveys, but it straddles itself atop mid-’90s teen rom-com clich’s like its mantra, “You just gotta breathe.” Not that Janus 4-14 isn’t completely cognizant of the importance of such built-in tropes in paying homage to another era; they even go as far as to acknowledge them earlier in the album during “It’s Too Late.” It’s the second song and they’re bracing the listener with the line “Rome wasn’t built in a day/ and other clich’s/ are being thrown at you,” almost as if to absolve whatever foibles they might unconsciously impart into the mix in the effort to make an accessible album. What’s missing though, is the one dominating component that propelled their influences into significance: the vocal idiosyncrasies of Guided By Voices or the casual irony of Pavement, for instance. The potential seems to be there, and while this debut EP hits on its audience’s most immediate needs, sometimes that tomato soup is better with a little grilled cheese.