Alt-J’s highly anticipated sophomore album “This Is All Yours” comes out today or tomorrow depending on who you ask, but you can get the FULL ALBUM (minus the bonus track) on Grooveshark plus my initial thoughts here:
I remember first listening to the bones of what would become “An Awesome Wave” on Soundcloud in my apartment a few years back.
KEXP had just featured this up and coming British trio who made a new kind of indie-pop song, something that I hadn’t heard a whisper of in any contemporary music at the time and something I realized I longed for and instantly connected with. The way Alt-j first struck me was a melding of melodic indie rock and folk, with the time changes and booming basslines of dance and dubstep. I instantly realized that this was not just some band that the KEXP DJ’s were excited about, they were the real deal.
I was able to see them perform a few times and I have to Admit, when I heard An Awesome Wave live over and over again, with very little new material, I was a bit worried that the follow up would not be able to recapture the essence of a few guys just messing around on Garage Band in their dorm rooms, all the while knowingly or unknowingly creating a masterpiece. It is with this baggage that I set about to listen to the band’s sophomore release (and first without “silent leader” Gwil Sainsbury)
Intro: Reminiscent of the harmonies of the 1st record, the “la la” refrain slowly gives way to cascading melodies before a heavily vocoded voice mumbles some chorus lines and finally we hear that trademark Alt-J rasp and snare/hat percussion about 3 minutes in to the album. This track reminds me of one of those recap reels at the beginning of your favorite weekly drama. In about 5 minutes it neatly sums up lots of the themes and melodies from An Awesome Wave while injecting medley foreshadowing some newer melodies and soundscapes that Alt-J has yet to play with, the intro is great at just what it says it will do.
Arrival In Nara is a beautiful early interlude. This is a song that you may honestly anxiously sit through the first listen through the album, but on subsequent listens it becomes pretty hard to skip, especially in front of the subsequent Nara. Similar structurally to the first three tracks from an awesome wave; just as Tessalate feels somewhat incomplete without hearing how she she she wants to to to count count her steps first; so is Nara without Arriving there first.
Nara was my first true love from this album. The 3 prerelease tracks are awesome, and totally belong on the album, are probably better songs than Nara objectively, just not as shiny, but Nara is absolutely mindshatteringly beautiful with headphones.
Speaking of the prerelease tracks, let’s talk about this album’s In your snatch fits pleasure line; “I want to turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” from Every Other Freckle what I consider the counterpart to, you guessed it, Fitzpleasure. While a little less dubstep influence makes its way into this track than the aforementioned barn burner, it still carries a ton of the same tropes but overall doesn’t feel like a sequel (though the subject matter is similar). The cellophane sex metaphor aside, this is definitely one of the standouts from the album and will carry extremely well live as well as with the casual listener.
Which brings us to Left Hand Free, the next track we’ve all (probably) heard, which continues the theme of “filthy” that occupies the early middle part of this album. Overall, I have to say that even though this is the “pop” song on the album that is also about “jacking off”, it is a “damn good song” and one of my “favorites” on the album. I won’t really talk too much more about this track as it has been out for a few months.
The garden of England – I get the interludes guys, and I get the mood you are trying to get us in for the next few songs I guess, but this interlude sounds like a recorder recital and kinda sucks. Luckily it is only a minute and gives way to yet another great slow burner.
Choice Kingdom is that slow burner, the 4th on the album so far if you include “Nara” and another great track. It takes a couple listens but it is slowly becoming one of my favorites.
Hunger of the Pine “I’m a female rebel!”, whatever, hate if you want to-it fits the track well.
Warm Foothills currently reminds me of The Head and the Heart/Of Monsters and Men and is poppy and kinda out of place on this decidedly darker and more ethereal album. Maybe I’ll grow to like it with time, but it is currently the only track I don’t mind skipping. And fuck those bands.
I might have been a bit disappointed after that if the next song was not The Gospel of John Hurt which is in a strong race for my favorite track on the album, and kicks off the great ending sequence of this album. I am predicting that this super-psyched-out chant-refrain-filled jungle of sound will be a featured track at the live show and most likely will be featured in an encore somewhere. You almost don’t want this track to end, but like all good things it must, and luckily gives way to yet another great track.
Pusher is another track that will play extremely well live. It is almost entirely reliant on the beautiful harmonies the band creates and can stand alone pretty nicely as well as fitting in well here.
Borrowing the chorus bars from pusher, the piano breaks in on Bloodflood II, an elegant reminder of the calm of that track shatters away into a low bassline with some low saw synths sweeping in and out. In the same way that Intro provides a recap and medley from an awesome wave to this is all yours, Bloodflood II marries the two albums in a way that almost makes this whole album feel like part II. This, along with The Gospel of John Hurt, are having a little cagematch in my head over which gets to be my favorite new song on the record. My jury is out, but what do you think?
Leaving Nara, the official end to the album, does a good job exploding all that has been created through the course of the record. It is another great song that ends up as kind of a liner note to the album, but nonetheless sounds great.
Lovely Day (Bonus) The album should end with this song, the fact that it is a bonus should not deter you from including it because it is awesome. The textures and melodies in this track really make it stand out, and the build up satisfies itself nicely with about a minute left, and as if rolling the credits allowing the listener some reflection time to sit back and think about what they have just experienced, Alt -J has done it again.
Alt-J may have managed to put together a better effort on their second record than the breakthrough, festival-packing first, even without the would-be the brains of the group, Gwil Sainsbury who quit this year. This sustained success without going for cross-genre, not compromising, but extending their sound, is exactly what I had hoped for in this record. If Alt-J is able to continue to extend the sound that they have trademarked and perfected, while including 4-5 single ready songs per album, they are going to become an indie powerhouse. Here’s hoping we’ll get a chance to see them for less than the whopping $125 that is market price for the paramount show in October.