The December Question has come a long way since forming in 2002. Early on, the band's acoustic-driven pop was largely centered around singer/guitarist Becky Alter (a former Westword account executive), whose raspy, robust vocals recalled Janis Joplin filtered through Melissa Etheridge. Since then, the core duo of Alter and co-founder/bassist Cameron Hayes has taken a darker turn and carved out a sound that conjures Jefferson Airplane after receiving a Dead Can Dance-like deconstruction. On Stained Glass Eyes, the act's debut (due to be released this Friday, March 31, at the Oriental Theater), there's still a handful of sunnier compositions, such as "I Need You," "Awake in a Dream" and "Time to Go (Dozen Roses)," and Alter's voice maintains a slight rasp. Stained's most intriguing moments, though, come courtesy of dirgy, overcast tracks such as "My Name Is Joan," "Promises" and, especially, "Clicking of the Clocks," in which Alter's delivery uncannily resembles Grace Slick's. Overall, with the addition of drummer James Crutchfield and cellist Sarah Forsythe, whose playing adds a welcomed spectral dimension to the proceedings, the quartet seems infinitely closer to finding the answer to whatever December's question may be.
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