A Molotov Cocktail

By melissa

January is a bastard wasteland of a month. It's cold, wet, and miserable outside, you've got no money left after December's parties-n-gifts overindulgences, and (perhaps the most important point), January is where music goes to die.

When's the last time you got excited over a January release? Exactly. To be fair, it's hardly their fault - it's not the quality of releases I have a problem with. It's the fact that NOTHING comes out in January. Record companies push to get stock out in December to still be fresh for those all-important Year End Polls, and god forbid, compete for the UK Christmas Number One. Even by the off-chance that something great does get released in January, we've already collectively forgotten about it by the time February rolls around. Such is the musical vacuum that is January.

There are exceptions - this month for me has been dominated by three albums, all with similar "warm blanket" properties to ease the chill. The first one I actually grabbed before Christmas, but Cat Power is hardly a December girl, and as a result, its greatness didn't really hit me until January did. I really enjoyed her Covers Record from a few years back, but You Are Free is just sheer, gorgeous brilliance. It still feels like Cat Power - warm but isolating, dark but comforting - but this album has so much more substance, and where some of her other songs tended to run together, each one here could stand on its own (and maybe even last long enough to be remembered for 2003's poll!). Chan's widened her sound and brought in a band, and the extra effort clearly shows.

The second album to hit me was The Last Post's Dry Land. I'd never heard anything by them before, so I certainly wasn't expecting to fall in love on first listen. Their sound reminds me of The Bluetones song 'A Parting Gesture', which in itself might explain why I've given this album so much attention. David Kitt joins as a guest vocalist on a few tracks, which instantly takes me back to the cool, green oasis that was the Acoustic Tent at Glastonbury 2002 when I fully understood his genius. It's rubbed off onto The Last Post, and I only hope this album gets as much attention as David Kitt has done in his native Ireland.

Finally, my last discovery of the month was Joy Zipper. Despite American Whip being their second album, this was my first taste of them, and indeed, another instance of love at first listen. The album meanders through Belle & Sebastian-esque twee-isms ("I love you more than a thousand Christmasses"), My Bloody Valentine breakdowns on 'Baby You Should Know', and a multitude of Mazzy Star vocal harmonizations. But the song '33x' has held its dreamy sway over me like no other, bringing to mind Bill Murray's own repetitive winter day with the line "If time is straight like a line, then I'm dying / 33 times, I climbed up the same tree". The surprisingly cheery chorus of "I'm getting tired of life" sums up my January feelings more fully than I could even phrase them myself. Joy Zipper aren't for doing anything rash or stupid - they're just stating their general ennui. And so am I.

The musical void isn't confined to releases, though - no one tours, either. If we don't even want to get out of bed, you can bet that the bands don't want to, either. It's the time for staying in, saving money, and wearing pajamas all day, not for rock and roll excess in front of a pale, haggard, and detoxing crowd.

For me, the last two months couldn't have been more black and white, yin and yang, Hall and Oates. By my count, I saw eight gigs in December, starting the month with PlayLouder's 5 night ICA festival, which climaxed a bit too early with more pavement-contact than was absolutely necessary at 5am after a secret BRMC gig (luckily, Excellent's own Bevan was there to the rescue). A handful of Christmas parties and random nights of sloshing later, and I find myself in what might've been the Tour Of The Year - Radio 4 and The Faint.

There's a religious sect in North Africa that attain spiritual one-ness with God by hopping, twisting, and chanting until they abandon themselves completely to their religion. I reached nirvana watching The Faint. They've somehow managed to combine three musical loves of my life - my high school love of Nine Inch Nails, my University concentration on guitar bands, and my current obsession with electroclash, all in one neat, evil package. They are the band that sum up my life like no other could. And I achieved one-ness with them as I jumped, twisted, and generally made an embarrassment of myself in the crowded club.

Now in January, on the other hand, I have yet to see a single gig. A few bands played one-off nights, but nothing big enough to separate my lazy body from the warm confines of my house and the tv. It's taken until the last three days of the month to get me out of my house, and only Tiga and The Faint could do that with such utter December-ness.

So as I finally drag my pale and bleary eyes into the bright lights of movement and beats, I have only one wish for February - let it be warm.