'This Is All Yours' is experimental rock act Alt-J's first record since their conceptual debut, 'An Awesome Wave', and was mostly written in free time around touring that record. "Hunger of the Pine", the record's first single, features a sample of Miley Cyrus' "4x4".
TracksIntro Arrival in Nara Nara Every Other Freckle Left Hand Free ❦ (Garden of England) Choice Kingdom Hunger Of The Pine Warm Foothills The Gospel of John Hurt Pusher Bloodflood pt.II Leaving Nara
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For most of 'This Is All Yours', Alt-J aren't a band writing songs -- just a vessel delivering sounds. This is not in and of itself a problem -- "Intro" is appealing in spite of its chaos, bringing together a chanted vocal of the band singing "la" as if it's the most urgent word in the alt-rock dictionary, Joe Newman wailing a drab harmony that recalls Thom Yorke circa 'Hail To The Thief', tinkering percussion and vaguely Eastern instrumentation. It's obvious that Alt-J are trying, and hard, but that's always been part of their appeal: for them, experimental music is aspirational. It takes effort and brainpower to make a record this eclectic. Unfortunately, it also takes restraint, which Alt-J do not have.
'This Is All Yours' is a formally experimental record: where 'An Awesome Wave' only used its palette of random sounds to complement the band's tight indie pop melodies and bold choruses, their second record priorities doing shit on a whim. This record is only lyrical in choice moments, otherwise feeling like something of an instrumental rock record with incidental poetry for the perplexed. The intro is enough to prove that Alt-J have the fragments of about fifty songs and have condensed them into fourteen -- also, dudes, who writes a four minute song called "Intro"? -- and the first fifteen minutes of the record feel especially like an expanded jam session that gets revisited and rerouted with layers upon layers of trivial sound. "Arrival In Nara" and "Nara" are coupled as sparse songs that initially recall the opaque guitar compositions of Perfume Genius and Talk Talk before rolling into weird, meandering verses with rollicking drumbeats. The question for Alt-J is always whether the sounds collate and if their collaging actually sounds any good -- these tracks are cluttered and difficult to grasp at, arranged around motifs rather than pop structure. In these moments, 'This Is All Yours' sounds like shit furniture being moved into an empty room.
A lot is made of Alt-J being a pop band through and through, as if their experimental nature is tempered by their willingness to appear in a daring car advert if there's a need. But the record is called 'This Is All Yours' -- Alt-J have taken every possible moment and maximised it into a widescreen piece of crazy. The miasmic atmosphere is appealing, but among it, there's very little tangible -- no clarity in the hooks, no place for them to slot. "Left Hand Free", which will go down in time as the worst Alt-J song, takes on a hybrid of ill-informed influences -- Beefheart blues, pop-punk, uh, Anthony Kedis? -- and an affection for warped solos on decaying keyboards; towards the end, the band wake up and remember to write a strong lyrical motif, but it's buried in the song's rubble. What makes it even worse is its sequencing -- it goes next to the laughably baroque "Garden of England" interlude, which leads into another laid-bare guitar composition that is somehow full of quiet moments and inane bluster. It's obvious that 'This Is All Yours' was supposed to have a pop attraction: it sincerely and affectionately samples Miley Cyrus. But it syncopates her, making her role another off-kilter, hard to grasp moment where it could have been immediate and indelible. Judging by "Hunger of the Pine", Alt-J's idea of an experiment is to sideline things, slightly, which doesn't stand as much of a definition.
Alt-J are hard to hate on, because they try so hard and reach for so much, hoping they can extract something of a sonic wonderland from it. But like its artwork, 'This Is All Yours' sounds like disconnected slabs of sound passing each-other by and never once interacting. On 'This Is All Yours', they treat their listener like some sort of inanimate object -- they like shapes, so let's say a rhombus -- and create whatever the fuck pleases them. Which is fine. Just don't make me listen to it again.
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