Album Preview: Alt-J

Indie rock is not the sort of music that normally catches my attention. However, when the Leeds-based Alt-J released An Awesome Wave in May 2012, led mostly by the infectious single Breezeblocks, I began to fall in love with their bizarre, almost progressive, indie arrangements. Their highly-awaited second album, This Is All Yours, is set for release on 22nd September and so far has had three singles taken from it:

Hunger Of The Pine

The first single from This Is All Yours, begins with pulsating synths that grow in magnitude beneath Joe Newman’s trance-like vocals. The synths soon transform into an electronic orchestra consisting of layers-upon-layers of ethereal guitars, vocals and warm swells, kept in time by the march of Thom Green’s percussion. Hunger Of The Pine is a bold lead single, because it focuses more on their ability to produce aural texture than on the presence of hooks, like those present in previous singles Matilda and Tessellate. This track also features a sample of Miley Cyrus singing the lyric “I’m a female rebel” from her track 4×4, which is integrated suprisingly well within the song’s structure. Rating: 9/10

Left Hand Free

Left Hand Free is a much more standard affair and sees the band channel their Jack White influences. The vocals are nasally and hard to interpret, whilst the track is arranged around a lightly overdriven, one-string-at-a-time guitar riff picked straight from White’s mind. Aside from the interlude of manic keyboard tomfollery, Left Hand Free is the least experimental track they’ve produced to date and one that does not sit well within their repertoire. Rating: 5/10

Every Other Freckle

Every Other Freckle reminds of 2012 single Fitzpleasure with its juxtaposing beautiful and distorted passages fighting for control. This track also makes use of a large range of instrumentation beyond their use of guitars and keyboards, including a trumpet, a buzzing whistle, shouts, a glockenspiel, a muted cowbell, a flute, claps and a variety of other bizarre percussive sounds. In fact it is Green’s percussion that really stands out on this track, as he flicks between differing styles throughout the winding and complex structure of the song. Rating: 9/10

Apart from the radio-orientated single Left Hand Free, Alt-J look to have written another avant-garde indie rock album, with enough eccentricities and unusual instrumentation to out-compete most progressive rock bands. Despite the persistent use of unorthodox styles, Alt-J still manage to create memorable tracks that don’t get bogged down under the band’s grand ideas. If bands like Coheed & Cambria and Muse (both of which are often cited as neo-prog) are making progressive music more accessible, then Alt-J might be about to make progressive music cool.

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