Alt-J’s album plagued by genre alternation

By admin Oct 2, 2014

Zane Nyhus


Alt-J released their second album entitled ‘This is All Yours’ this past Monday, Sept. 22.  Since their formation in Leeds, England in 2007, this experimental rock band has gained popularity with their unique, new age style.  Their first album, An Awesome Wave, won the Mercury Prize in 2012 for best album.

Shortly before the recording for their new album began, bassist Gwil Sainsbury left the band, as he “was really just not enjoying aspects of the lifestyle of being in a band,” according to keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton. Many alt-J fans wondered what impact this would have on the direction of the band, but being unpredictable is alt-J’s specialty.

Their newest album makes An Awesome Wave seem modest by comparison.  The wide array of instruments combined with tribal melodies and synthesized electronica makes This is All Yours one of the most up-in-the-air, enjoyable albums of this year.

The album begins with a four-minute intro, where a series of alternating “la’s” between vocalists Gus Unger-Hamilton and Joe Newman eventually blend into the Arabian-style guitar progression and synthesizer effect.

The next track is “Arrival in Nara,” one of three songs about a city in Japan where the deer roam free in the central park downtown, a metaphor for the album’s sense of freedom.  On a deeper level, it may also represent how the urban setting meets wilderness and the two are able to co-exist, the same way alt-J’s collaborative musical style works so well.  At any rate, this song is the album’s closest track to a ballad, with very delicate harmony that slowly rises to the sound of Newman’s soft-spoken lyrics, “As she submarines/ the rope loops round her feeble feet.”

“Every Other Freckle” is driven by faster percussion and choir-like background vocals, but the creepy lyrics take away from the otherwise enjoyable tune: “I want to turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp package.”

“Left Hand Free” is perhaps the easiest song to sing along to on ‘This Is All Yours,’ a folk-like jam that is reminiscent of early Beck.

“Garden of England” feels like an intermission from the album, and features the sounds of chirping birds, fluttering wings, church bells and a recorder – only lasting a little over a minute.

“Hunger of the Pine” is my favorite song from the album, which incorporates Miley Cyrus’ lyric “I’m a female rebel” into a building crescendo of R&B style singing.  Words don’t do the song justice—you must listen to it to fully appreciate the song in all its glorious weirdness.

As a whole, “This Is All Yours” is a grab-bag collection of songs that range from wild and frenetic to humble and soothing. But with a band like alt-j, which thrives on the element of surprise, there are bound to be a few deadweight songs that are carried along with the more memorable ones.  The whirlwind of sounds that are pasted together so intricately leave less of a need for lyrics, as the music tells the tale. But, alt-J still struggles with their use of vocals and lyrics, which if used correctly could have really driven home the overall message of this album.


3/5 stars

By admin

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