FUV's New Dig: Alt-J
FUV's New Dig album spotlight: Alt-J
This is All Yours
Atlantic / Infectious / Canvasback Records
Indie rockers Alt-J (their name is a reference to the "delta" symbol, which can be typed by hitting the "alt" and J keys on a Mac) came together in Leeds, England. Their debut album, An Awesome Wave, was widely acclaimed upon its release in 2012. In the U.K., it won the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Prize and was named Album of the Year at the 2013 Ivor Novello Awards.
After such an attention-grabbing debut, expectations have been high for Alt-J's second LP. This Is All Yours was created by Alt-J as a trio: lead vocalist and guitarist Joe Newman, keyboardist and vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton, and drummer Thom Green (bassist Gwil Sainsbury left the band at the beginning of this year).
In a short period of time, Alt-J has set themselves apart from their contemporaries by developing a unique, difficult to describe direction. They morph together a schizophrenic blend of electronics, art pop, prog-rock sonics, beats and distorted vocals, then add dark and obscure lyrics. But despite drawing on such esoteric qualities, Alt-J manage to keep it all listenable — and occasionally even danceable.
The opening trilogy of "Intro," "Arrival In Nara" and "Nara" creates an ethereal and icy atmosphere that gets revisited towards the album's end on "Leaving Nara." The pace of the album distorts as "Every Other Freckle" and "Left Hand Free" burst in. "Choice Kingdom" is both ominous and welcoming in a swirl of gloomy comfort. That mood is flipped with the aural masterstroke "Hunger Of The Pine," which features a sampling of Miley Cyrus singing "I'm a female rebel."
The barren "Warm Foothills" is one of the ethereal highlights, with its stunning manipulation of the lead vocal, including an appearance by Conor Oberst somewhere in the mix. That's followed by the cryptic "The Gospel Of John Hurt" with lyrics like "No space / L-shaped / Tetris / Tile seeking" and "AK / Twenty / 47 / Civilian." It's one of the many moments on This Is All Yours that would make Brian Eno proud and Radiohead's Thom Yorke a little edgy.
For the patient, there is a hidden gift tucked away at the end of the album in the form of a cover of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" — after ten minutes of silence at the album's end.
This Is All Yours reinforces the fact that Alt-J are poised to become one of rock's leading innovative bands. In fact, they may already be.