I still remember the first time I heard of alt-J. The then foursome lads of lead singer/guitarist Joe Newman, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, bassist Gwil Sainsbury, and drummer Thom Green were set to open for Chairlift for a Lollapalooza aftershow at the tiny intimate venue of the Empty Bottle – a Lollapalooza I should add that they were not part of. Things quickly became big for the boys from Leeds. Within a few months after that show, alt-J blew up big-time, graduating from buzz band to an actual big-deal band. They easily dominate radio and music blogs, and subsequently moved on into headlining bigger venues and festivals. Their triumphant 2012 cumulated in the band winning the prestigious Mercury Prize for Music.
It’s easy to understand why the band was embraced by so many. alt-J produces glitchy, brainy music that is pretty much infectious. Their debut record An Awesome Wave is eclectic enough to be to explored by the discerning and melodious enough to be enjoyed by the masses. Imagine a less weird latter-era Radiohead and you’ll understand the appeal. It seems that alt-J are on top of the world and nothing could stop them.
The first signs of doubt showed though when bassist Gwil Sain announced his amiable departure from the band due to tiring of the tour life. A standout member, not just because of distinctive bleached-haired look, but also because of steady beat-keeping, people began to wonder if the band would ever be the same now that they are a trio. And would the massive burden of recording a follow-up to the much-loved An Awesome Wave be too much for a young band who received too much buzz too early?
alt-J‘s sophomore record This Is All Yours defiantly answered all the questions of their critics and then some. This Is All Yours kept all the brainy tendencies of An Awesome Wave but in a lot of ways expanded the palate of the band. The whole album is more pastoral and serene in nature (three songs, in fact deal with the pastoral region of Nara in Japan where deers walk amongst humans), and there’s just enough of the weirdness mixed in (such as hip-hop beats and a Miley Cyrus sample) that keeps everything all the more interesting and still distinctively alt-J. This Is All Yours feels way more complete and a whole lot more satisfying than the already great An Awesome Wave, making it one of my favorite records of the year. Even without Gwil, the alt-J machine marches on towards greatness.
Watch the video for single Hunger Of The Pine embedded below,
alt-J – This Is All Yours comes out 9/23 via Infectious/Atlantic (order here)