Just Press Alt and then J

Posted on September 30, 2014


By Katie Butler

We all have our favorite bands. You know, that one artist who seems to sing right to the interworkings of your soul, or the album that has the only song in the world that makes you want to dance without regard to who’s watching. The artists that you can listen to repeatedly without ever tiring or the album that you refuse to turn off even though you’ve listened to it millions of times in the car causing your sister to yell “Make it stop!” at the top of her lungs. Or is that just me?

A magical musical act that I will never tire of is the band “Alt-J.” Their first album entitled “An Awesome Wave,” which was released in 2012, introduced the world to the band’s unique sound and especially intricate and rather perplexing lyrical choices. Such decisions on behalf of the band branded them as an unconventional and groundbreaking alternative band. This eccentricity can especially be seen through songs such as “Taro,” a piece that invokes Middle Eastern Themes, while the first song on the album “Intro” is unique in the sense that is completely a-capella, yet still flows as though there is accompaniment involved. Further, the level of talent and authenticity of their live performances is unparalleled, and with so much potential, you can imagine my anticipation of their new album, which released September 22nd.

It is unfair for me to say that I am a tad disappointed with their new album because their first record, which featured hits such as “Breezblocks” and “Fitzpleasure,” set such high standards, causing my expectations of their sophomore album to be rather high. While their new CD entitled “This Is All Yours,” features songs that evoke emotion and give me goosebumps, the album fell, well, a tad flat. While Alt-J’s new record does feature songs that are reminiscent of the genius of their first album through their instrumentation, authenticity, and inimitability, including “Every Other Freckle,” “Left Hand Free,” and “Hunger of the Pine,” there is a reason that these three songs were released as singles before the final album: they outshine the rest.

This is not to say that the album is bad. While I do believe that Alt-J still possesses the power to emotionally affect their audience and entice a positive response, their second album is just simply unable to live up to their first. I found myself wondering why such a great band needed to steal themes from songs already in existence, such as in “Garden of England-Interlude,” a song that seems like a filler, and why the first two minutes of “Intro” seem to be repeating the same melodic theme without a build. Further, I found myself rather surprised and bored at the song “Pusher,” a song that, while beautiful, seems to be limited instrumentally to an acoustic guitar and mainstream musical themes, while I would have guessed that “Warm Foothills” was written by another band in a heartbeat. Where is the Alt-J that makes every song unique and distinctive, pushing music to its limits and creating something new?

I love this band, and you definitely should too. However, while I truly appreciate certain aspects of their new record, such as their Middle Eastern musical themes, incredibly skilled vocals with falsetto and sustained notes, I may have set my standards a tad too high. Nevertheless, I will never stop calling Alt-J one of the most impactful and talented bands of our generation and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds in store for this unique foursome.

Posted in: Music