The strange and wonderful world of Alt-J

Two years after their “An Awesome Wave” debut, English indie rock band Alt-J return with “This Is All Yours,” a strange, perplexing, but often beautiful and engaging release that draws on elements of folk, pop, rock and electronica, sometimes within the same song.

Tracks are a little sullen at times, but the tones, textures and arrangements are so rich and imaginative we forgive and just keep listening. The delicate “Arrival in Nora” is pensive and beautiful.

Other tracks, like “Gospel of John Hurt,” start out somewhat sketchy and unassuming, then build into something brilliant, colossal and musically great.

“Intro,” with its annoyingly repetitive chorus and dissonance is a track that should have never made it onto the final record. Maybe that’s why its followup, “Arrival In Nara,” sounds so fantastic.

O.K., so these guys are a little eccentric; what are the most accessible tracks here? Without a doubt, their rich-sounding rocker “Every Other Freckle,” the exuberant “Left Hand Free” sounding every bit like a song The Black Keys could’ve recorded, and their lovely and atmospheric “Warm Foothills.” Don’t be surprised to see at least one of these songs appear in a movie soundtrack at some point; my money’s on “Warm Foothills.”

About Alt-J

The band hails from England, and originally met at Leeds University in 2007. Two band members, Gwil Sainsbury (guitar / bass) and Joe Newman (guitar / lead vocals) began collaborating on songwriting in their dorm rooms. In 2012, their debut album won the British Mercury Prize, an annual music prize awarded for best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Band members are: Gwil Sainsbury (guitar / bass), Joe Newman (guitar / lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards, vocals) and Thom Green (drums).  They boast 246K followers on Twitter and are currently charting at number 1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums.

Last year, Alt-J played a series of festivals, including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. The new album was released last month and went straight to number 1 on the UK’s Official Albums Chart.

To sum up

So what are you going to do with a band that goes from one song resembling The Black Keys to another track that evokes Fleet Foxes? With their musically refreshing, innovative style, “listen and enjoy” is probably as good an answer as any.

Must-have tracks: “Gospel of John Hurt,” “Every Other Freckle,” “Warm Foothills” and “Left Hand Free,” which you can listen to here:

While many of us – this reviewer included – generally prefer our music served sunny side up, “upbeat” doesn’t describe the majority of this album. Still, “This Is All Yours” is a musical journey you’ll want to take.

Currently touring in Australia, they play Portland’s Roseland Theater 16- 17; both shows are sold out. You can find their music on amazon and iTunes, or at their website.

Cynthia Orlando
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