Experimental Indie band Alt-J first burst onto the music scene in early 2012 to resounding applause for their first album ‘An Awesome Wave’.
Naturally expectations were high for this Mercury Prize-winning group’s second album titled, order ‘This is all yours’. Early releases of tracks like ‘Every other Freckle’ and ‘Hunger of the Pine’ only served to fuel this anticipation further. When it was released in September for streaming on Spotify however, fans discovered that Alt-J’s early success might have gone to their heads.
They seemed much more confident and self-assured in their own music, but does this mean they’ve taken their foot off the pedal?
The album opens slowly with ‘Intro’ and ‘Arrival in Nara’ showing off Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton’s soothing vocal harmonies and subtly suggests that some psychedelic-folk magic is about to happen. ‘Every other Freckle’ picks up the mantle from the first album and satisfies cravings for the unique sound of Alt-J, but lacks the catchy-creativity of some of their earlier hits.
It’s hard to know whether or not to like the label-pleasing track ‘Left Hand Free’ as the band admitted it was intended as a joke when their record company suggested they write something to infiltrate the American market.
Should I like it with a hint of condescension as the band intended or are they in fact mocking me if I like this song?
I’m still not sure so I tend to avoid listening to this easy-bluesy number altogether.
‘Hunger of the Pine’ is without doubt the high-point of the album. It harks back to the days of ‘Tessellate’, mixing soft vocals with powerful drum and synth sounds, guaranteed to be on repeat in your headphones for weeks.
If the album was a mountain range, then ‘Warm Foothills’ would indeed be the foothills to what I think is the better part of the album, where the band explore some of their more organic, folksier roots. Especially in ‘Bloodflood pt.II’, where they show a bit more maturity and progress in the development of their sound since their debut. It’s a slightly different style but one that is no less brilliant.
By the time we are ‘Leaving Nara’ (I’m sure there is a story to this album, but I don’t think it’s one I will ever decipher); we are beginning to settle in to Alt-J’s new chilled-out vibe. The album as a whole will certainly not disgruntle any existing fanatics; however neither is it likely to attract a huge amount of new admirers.
This isn’t an album that inspires love at first sight, it’s not ‘An Awesome Wave’, but it’s a decent wave all the same, so do yourself a favour and listen to it in your own time, a few times and it will grow on you.
‘This is All Yours’ is available to stream on Spotify. It will be released in stores on 22nd September. Alt-J will play the 3 Arena on Saturday 27th September.
By Kevin O’Reilly.