My roommate and I have always had a give and take relationship with music and it seems like just yesterday that he shared with me Alt-J’s “Something Good”, a day I owe him eternal thanks for because at that very moment I discovered my new favorite band. I was immediately in awe with the band’s unique ability to blend euphoric sounds into one, Lead singer Joe Newman’s high-pitched whiny voice combined with the fusion of acoustic and electronic sounds was unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s been two years since that day and the release of Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave, an album that had both fans and critics crowning the indie band the next big thing in music. Their popularity only continued to grow when the record went on to win the Mercury Prize for Best British Album of 2012, leaving the band with big shoes to fill for their sophomore album. With This Is All Yours Alt-J lives up to the hype effortlessly delivering an inventive new album with a dazzling and seductive track list that stays true to who they are.
It didn’t take long for Alt-J to get back to their roots as the “Intro” was done in classic Alt-J style- giving us flashbacks to the trance that was An Awesome Wave. Newman’s staccato vocals slowly build up alongside Unger-Hamilton’s keyboard leading to a drop filled with an array of drums (snares, woodblocks, shakers, etc.). This track successfully captures the listeners’ attention and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s the album’s first moment of genius, with many more to come.
Perhaps the most standout songs of the album come in middle portion of the album with “Warm Foothills” and “The Gospel of John Hurt”. Both songs provide us with the most memorable moments of the album and could be labeled instant classics. “Warm Foothills” I argue is the star, as it features guest appearances from folk singers Lianne La Havas, Marika Hackman, and Conor Oberst who sporadically exchange words instead of having separate verses resulting in beautiful harmony. With lyrics like, “I tie my life to your balloon and let it go”, Alt-J reminds us of their powerful yet eloquent way with words. Just like “Matilda” from an An Awesome Wave, “The Gospel of John Hurt” is also based on one of Newman’s all time favorite movie scenes, which makes it impossible to forget (The track inspired from a death scene in which an alien bursts out of Hurt’s chest in the movie Alien).
One of the most admirable aspects of This Is All Yours is Alt-J’s willingness to take risks. “Left Hand Free” is a far cry from what we’re used to hearing from the band, the song sounds more like a southern rock hit that resembles something The Black Keys would produce. While “Hunger of The Pine” is even more astonishing production as it samples Miley Cyrus boasting, “I’m a female rebel” from her hit song “4×4”, and then suddenly transitions into French vocals.
Some critics may argue that these risks failed in providing a complete album, but I would have to disagree. To me they topped their first album and Alt-J showed their musical genius; they created a completely unique album with memorable melodies and vocals, unlike anything out right now. Whether you’re a fan of Alt-J or not, This Is All Yours is a must listen.
Check out the video for “Hunger Of The Pine”.