In today’s world where the Top 40 actually consists of the same 10 songs that sound more or less identical, a little weird isn’t just needed – it’s welcome.
But for Alt-J, the British group that admittedly sounds a bit like an animated frog mixed with ethereal beats an Urban Outfitters regular would light up to, success came as a surprise.
After all, it was never attention the group set out to gain, releasing their debut album An Awesome Wave in 2012 for the pure sake of being able to say, “Look, we made an album once.”
But the problem with having anything unique is the question of whether or not it will be replicable in a way that pays off its first installation.
The higher the hype for their sophomore album This is All Yours, the further there was to fall if the final product ended up short of expectations. And although the four singles they released prior to the album’s release were all a fantastic mix of different and familiar, it was a real concern Alt-J had already given us the best they had- kind of like a movie showing its best parts during the trailer.
Now, Alt-J fans can officially breathe a sigh of relief because not only is This is All Yours finally available – it’s kicked the sophomore slump in the ass, seamlessly carrying over the ethereal, nerdy-chic sound set up in An Awesome Wave.
They smoothly carried their experimental sound that is the musical equivalent to a modern art gallery over into the new album. Besides superficial similarities, such as the song “Bloodflood Pt. II” in This is All Yours bridging the two albums as a follow-up to An Awesome Wave’s “Bloodflood”, you almost can’t tell the two apart if you play both albums back to back.
One of the aspects that makes This is All Yours stand out is the trilogy of songs, “Arrival in Nara”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara.” A real place, Nara is a city in Japan where deer freely walk around the urban jungle alongside people. The inspiration of the surreal city seems to have had an impact on Alt-J similar to the impact visiting India did for the Beatles’ ascension into a more psychedelic style, as This is All Yours has a more worldly sound to it.
They go from a Black Keys sound in “Left Hand Free” to something of English folk in “Pusher,” all while keeping a consistently exotic sound that makes you feel as though you’re in India– a style touched on in the previous album’s “Taro.” Alt-J also continued their signature sampling of sounds, this time opting for Miley Cyrus in Hunger of the Pine and a nearly creepy sound effect of buzzing flies at the end of “Arrival in Nara.”
But one consistency they kept that you’d almost never notice is their geeky references to film and pop-culture. The title of their previous album and lyrics in “Bloodflood” were an ode to a line from American Psycho; and the lyrics to “Breezeblocks” took their main line ‘please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so’ from the story Where the Wild Things Are, just to name a few.
In This is All Yours, the most notable reference comes in “Gospel of John Hurt.” If you don’t know John Hurt by name, you’d know him if you saw him, as he’s been in many films over the past several decades, including Harry Potter, V for Vendetta, Snowpiercer, and Hellboy. The song, however, was inspired by Hurt’s iconic scene in Alien in which an alien bursts from his chest.
Even the band’s name – Alt-J – is a reference to the triangle you get by hitting the Alt and J keys on a Mac computer.
If the first album was flirting, this one is true love. Alt-J maintains the same beautiful, weird style we’ve grown to love and know them for, but its not without its own experimentation that sets it apart as an entity all its own and gives you something new to look forward to.
Get weird with This is All Yours, now officially available to buy and stream on iTunes.
- Intro (Very cinematic and beautiful)
- Arrival In Nara (Awesome song – be ready for creepy buzzing fly sounds at the end)
- Every Other Freckle
- Left Hand Free (Very Black Keys – my personal favorite)
- Garden of England – Interlude
- Choice Kingdom
- Hunger of the Pine (Samples Miley Cyrus, sounds most like their original album)
- Warm Foothills (Fantastic back and forth between lead singer and female guest singer)
- The Gospel of John Hurt (References the great actor known for his scifi work, John Hurt)
- Bloodflood Pt. II (A follow-up to An Awesome Wave’s “Bloodflood”)
- Leaving Nara
- Lovely Day (Bonus Track)