Jan – The Early Year

The Early Year

Who says we have to change with the times? Remember the straight-up college rock sounds of the late 80s and early 90s? If you do, the Minneapolis trio Jan should bring back a certain amount of nostalgia for those days. The super-short version of this review is that if you at all dug Belly, Liz Phair, Throwing Muses, or the first Breeders album back in the day, The Early Year from Jan is not to be missed. Stop reading and go get it.
However, as a disclaimer, I realize that a significant portion of DOA’s readership may have been nine or 10 years old at the time and likely might have overlooked this time in music. (Well, gather round kiddies while your uncle Nate-y tells you a tale, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) Once upon a time in the land before Alanis Morrisette, something very special happened in America. A Chicago girl named Liz Phair released an album called Exile in Guyville in 1993. This was special for a lot of reasons. The lyrics were like diary entries, detailing personal events and thoughts of a typical 20-something American girl living in the city. Although in this post-Alanis world (whose songs came from a similar, yet far more cheesy, perspective), it may not seem as big of a deal, Exile in Guyville ushered in a new era. Previous to this, females were expected to shake their tatas like Madonna, ride Harleys along with the guys like Joan Jett, chew scenery with Bette Midler, or some come up with some other way to fit in with a previous trend to be accepted. The idea that a suburban every-girl could pick up a guitar without pretensions or gimmics of any kind and write intelligent, personal, no-nonsense pop songs, was fresh and remarkable. And while The Early Year may not be as revolutionary as Exile in Guyville, it certainly stacks up very well on it’s own.
In fact, I feel a bit disqualified to place this record in its proper light, being of the male persuasion. All that I know is that when I hear the lullaby-like properties of “Baby Forgot How,” with it’s tuneful chord progressions, shimmering guitars, and silky-smooth female vocals, it’s bound to find it’s proper audience. “Scanner,” a catchy number about ringing up friends on the ‘ol cell phone, shows that the band is equally good at rocking it out, coming across like a collaboration between the Breeders and the Go-Gos. Even the unfortunately named “Fred Rodgers,” a smart-assed ode to everyone’s favorite resident of the Land of Make-Believe, is too hip-shaking to write off as merely “cute.”
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeaneen Gauthier and her band have put together a great collection of honest pop tunes written from her own female perspective. There’s something infectious and honest about the songs, in a way that makes me think that commercial success could easily come to Jan. In fact, I’ll be surprised if I DON’T hear Jan on the radio in the near future. All in all, The Early Year is very well produced, played, and conceived. It’s a home-run hit for fans of female-voiced pop.