It's hard to say how Alt J were Grammy and Brit award nominated for their last album This Is All Yours but it did actually happen. They've been all over London recording this one and the sounds of the lead track 3WW this could be their most experimental work yet. Pretty interesting stuff it has to be said.
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I didn’t hate this for two minutes and forty seconds. In fact, I loved it: those opening unassuming loops of quietly lopsided guitar on “3ww” should have gone on for thirty minutes with little-to-nothing interrupting them, Joe Newman’s voice rising no further from its distant, barricaded mumble. The pianos shouldn’t have twinkled, the climax shouldn’t have come… they should have never gotten loud, for you see, they are not Genesis. With ‘Relaxer’, it’s like they almost learned that being loud does not art rock make, but they aren’t quite there yet.
Having come off of the longest, most cluttered sophomore self-branding in ‘This Is All Yours’, Alt-J have doubled down on the songs while basically compacting all the ideas further into their absorbent black hole pop. Trumpets, cowbell, striking guitar chords and definitely contracted la la la la la las combine to make “In Cold Blood” like someone combining disparate items in a video game to make something, anything, let’s just see what the code drags up. Their love of expanse leads them to cover folk standard “House of the Rising Sun” and just deposit their own verse into it as well, sorta bastardising the song into a Lumineers-style advert centrepiece, its guitars trembling underneath a serene string collation. It gets denser and lusher until I can’t make my way out of the treeline.
Alt-J are not so much for me, I’ll admit, but it's only because they're too much for me. When it abandons its slightly more muted approach, this record tends to switch between iterations of their sound I don’t like very much, mixing their constant overthinking with brazen hard rock I’d half-expect from a Third Man release. ‘Hit Me Like That Snare” is an attempt at weirding out that sound, taking the aggressive chug and switching out the rhythm dictating it for stuttering vocal samples and sparse, drunken ramblings. There will always be parts of their sound I like, but they’re usually interrupted before I can ready the congratulations. I’ll listen to them make a grooving electro-pop jam a la TV on The Radio -- hey “Deadcrush” -- if they promise to leave it alone for just a second. Unfortunately: flutes.
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- RELAXER by alt-J
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