Alt-J is a band from the UK that started making music quietly in a dorm room. Named after the Mac shortcut command to type a Delta Sign. They came out of the nothing to build a silent addictive storm with their awesome first studio album "An Awesome Wave" that went on to win the Mercury Prize. I started to even write a review of the first album, but when you win a Mercury Prize, you don't need a review - you're good. Literally good.
Their second album was bought for me by Lady Bear and it was very hard at first to listen to. As I do most of my music listening in the car I get one or two songs in before I'm done driving. Also my wee Honda Fit is not the most musical of sound systems.
It's taken me quite some time to develop a full taste of the album.
Well it's good. It just hard to wrap your head around. You have to listen to it and listen to it again - over and over to find all the flavor of hearing bliss locked away in each song. Lyric wise I've had to pull apart the words and found that each song is littered with awesome. From enchanting lyrics to soft washes of words to the music.
Hunger of the Pine is the first single and eighth song on the album. It builds from a beep and a warms to a soft voice. As the rest of the orchestra pipes in a soft jazz and low voice wraps around you. When the 'female rebel' is being decreed the beeps are gone and the jazz has taken over. Eventually the music once more transitions away from the jazz and into the more common feel of mixed sounds. It ramps ups to a melodic finish and a taste of melded sounds a the whole song comes rushing back as one whole entity right before the chant takes overs and ends the song.
Tied for my favorite song on the album is the one that has gotten the most play when I started listening to the album. The Gospel of John Hurt starts as a problem both in lyric and sound. The music is twisted and trying to unravel.When the calm echos of the vocals finally pull apart the song, it's laid out to the listener in a new tone and soft beat. The song puts itself back in place as the electornic highs and hard guitar lead the listener to a climactic end. It builds up slowly before a final push towards the silence at the cut.
Somewhere in a small closet Nara starts before the band breaks out and gives the listener a mix of soft guitar, piano, and drum. The beat mixes and changes step on you while the lyrics, if you listen closely to love poem, lead you away to a second song. Alt-J proves the its name by once more twisting the delta or change into a song and making it seem like it fits. The magic culminates over some roaring small bells, organ music, and choral support as Hallelujah repeats through to the end of the song.
Tied for my favorite song on the album is Every Other Freckle. A gentil follow up to Nara with a soft voice. The quiet is chased by the drums who quickly catch up to the sounds and forces the songs into a musical hunt. The lyrics are the target as the instrumental tries to cage the music. Soothingly the vocals are a source of freedom and escape. The game is one of cat and mouse emphasized by the bardic choral and pipes midway in the song providing a breather for both parties. The curtain parts when the guitar and the lyrics start to meld into a single predator leaping between sounds before pouncing on the listener with a repeating chorus that winds down for the final kill.
Alt-J brings it with its 70's rock inspired Left Hand Free bouncing from the guitar and mic. The crooning Pusher is a an odd mix of lyrics and quiet resolve. Bloodflood Pt II is a return of an old sound from the previous album reminding the audience that this is, no matter what, Alt-J.
Each song is a mix of loud and quiet with blends of colour that reaches into places that Alt-J has determined with their music to be good places. They lift you, or drag you, and sometimes they do both at the same time. The echos and languid vocals marry well with the electric sounds framed by guitars and drums.
Alt-J is here to stay.
Enjoty the ride.
PS. Here is the Male video (they made two - one boy, one girl) for Every Other Freckle.