Alt- J’s debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ managed to break into the masses, making them at the forefront of indie pop/rock with a sound that blended experimental music with pop perfectly. The album explored themes incorporating maths with darker subjects such as rape. They had a sound that matched with everything being so calculated and perfectly in time. It was a twisted, beautiful record and in the end Alt-J grabbed the Mercury prize for it. Now two years later Alt-J have spawned a sequel of sorts…
This isn’t a sequel as you’d expect it to be, it’s not the same album again. It does the thing that all good sequels should do… expand on it. Sonically Alt-J have gone down a much more serene route. The glitchiness is still in their sound but they trade it for more beauty on this album. Right from the ‘intro’ to the album you hear perfect harmonies between them as the track progresses building and building. Then they take on a journey to their experience in Nara, three of the prettiest songs that they’ve ever written are on the first three songs on the album.
This is an album that needs to be listened to right through from front to back and demands your full undivided attention, if you don’t even for a second you could miss something. Even on the Blues rock song ‘Left Hand Free’ there are brilliant levels of instrumentation and innovation. They do Blues rock better than anything on the last Black Keys record. ‘Every Other Freckle’ is far more blatantly sexual than anything on their debut album, it’s also the closest sounding to ’An Awesome Wave’ than anything else on the album. It is full of their trademark, odd lyricism with lyrics such as ’I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag’ and an intensity at the end as he sings the line ’I want every other freckle’ again and again until the instrumentation reaches a crescendo. Where the first album already had plenty of influences from all over the place this one has even more. Alt-J seem to pick up influences that stick with them wherever they go. Whether that be at their University where they weren’t allowed to use drums or bass due to the noise restrictions which helped them craft such an intricate sound; or in Nara where they’ve adopted what they see in the nature and beauty around them into their music.
‘Hunger Of The Pine’ and ‘Bloodflood Pt II’ may well be the best creations Alt-J have ever made. ‘Hunger Of The Pine’ features a horn section that looms over the entire song like a menacing beast while Newman sings oh so prettily, There’s also a sample of the Miley Cyrus song ‘4×4’. It’s one of the most haunting songs they’ve ever made. ‘Bloodflood Pt II’ is the long awaited sequel to the original off of the first album following the story of the rape victim. The song feels like an outsider watching on what happened on the events of the first one as it has a lot more of a serene, yet grand feeling to it. The vocals pile on top of each other and the instrumentation of strings keeps building in this song into a climatic finish.
I know that’s it’s a very cliché thing to compare a band that experiments to Radiohead these days but here we go. I see so many similarities in this that feels like what could be their ‘In Rainbows’. There is such a wide variety of styles in this album, some barbaric and some beautiful and delicate like ‘In Rainbows’. It also feels like it complements their first album in the way that ‘In Rainbows’ complements ‘OK Computer’. This album is sure to divide the fan base though. If you give this band time they will reward your ears. I am extremely excited to hear what this band does in the future.