Alt-J Are Still the Coolest Band Out There

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

At the core of 2012’s Mercury Award winning An Awesome Wave, Leeds four-piece Alt-J mesmerized with their inventive melodies, enchanting vocal harmonies and eccentric instrumentation cementing them as one of the coolest bands around. The likes of “Breezeblocks” and “Flitzpleasure” left us smitten over brash drums thumping their way across quirky guitar lines before being devoured by frontman Joe Newman’s unique voice. So, with all the hype and expectation, the question arose: what next? The answer, This Is All Yours.

Fast forward two years, and the band, now a trio (following founding member and drummer Gwil Sainsbury’s departure) return with an unexpected Miley Cyrus sample, “a pileup of American clichés” and of course, a bunch of whimsical tracks smothered in that signature, but slightly toned down, Alt-J eclecticism.

The slow-burning “Hunger of the Pine”, underpinned by what’s essentially, a Hip-Hop beat is enriched by outbursts of “I’m a female rebel” from Miley’s “4×4” alongside a grand, jazz-y intersection before keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton enthrals with some French lines towards the end. The first taste we had of the band’s exploration of newer sounds. Similar introspective touches are heard in “Nara”, a thematic adventure where Newman’s distinct diction and vocal delivery comes to light, as he intones “ha-lle-lu-jah” in various ways and showcases his range over an interchanging concoction of rich sounds.

It’s in “Warm Foothills” and “The Gospel of John Hurt” however, where things get really exciting. The former, an interaction between male and female vocals, amidst angelic harmonies floating in the background whilst they finish each other’s lines and share a melody to create an elegant, and effortless flow. Whereas the latter, opens with monosyllabic interjections of “L shaped / Tetris” before expanding into a blissful extravaganza of sublime electronic jabs all packed into an ever-changing soundscape.

If anything, the album’s downfall is due to its lyrical content, which can be both confusing and irksome. Relating to lines like the playful “turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” in “Every Other Freckle” can be difficult despite its comical value. That, and the childlike intonations of “Are you a pusher or are you a puller” in the rather dull, and monotonous “Pusher” leave a bitter taste to the album’s general feel. Overall then, This Is All Yours Alt-J have stuck to what they do best, in making inventive alternative pop songs with a twisted edge as well as add an extra dash of coolness.