“Alt-J” literally means the delta created with the command “alt + J” on a Macintosh computer. This mathematical symbol represents change, which is what this innovative band is embracing.
The first song I heard by Alt-J was “Dancing in the Moonlight,” a cover of a ’70s Irish band, Thin Lizzy—the same artists who brought you “The Boys are Back in Town.” For those who don’t know, Thin Lizzy is a rock band. They’re upbeat, catchy and in this particular song a bit jazzy.
Alt-J’s version, however, is a simple acoustic configuration that is utterly compelling. Though I appreciated their ability to transform and make a song from a different artist their own, I didn’t understand why they’d choose a song so different from their own style. Then I read how they describe their music on their Facebook page as being, “a precise and unique brand of (alternative) pop that draws on poignant folk verses, crushing synths, smart hip hop syncopations and tight vocal harmonies.”
It’s true, Alt-J’s music is influenced by all kinds of music styles and somehow it works. In an interview with Interview Magazine after they released their debut album in 2012, Alt-J stated, “We just try to play music we like to hear and we’re kind of absentmindedly sounding like no other band at the moment . . . we naturally understand one another. We’re on the same wavelength which is why we end up sounding okay.” Their latest album, “This is All Yours,” is bold and intuitive—it is that abstract painting you love without an immediate reason.
Unlike a lot of albums, “This is All Yours” doesn’t start with a bang but rather eases you into the album, like a prelude, which makes sense, seeing as the title of the track is “Intro.” The song is instrumental for the most part with few lyrics and a lot of breezy electro-pop beats.
Segueing into track two, “Arrival of Nara” is also on the instrumental side, with a bittersweet keyboard intro that lasts nearly the first two minutes of the track before the soothing tones of the lyrics come in.
“Garden of England Interlude” in the middle of the album was a surprise. Already having an rather solid instrumental track to open the album, I didn’t expect another one. But if an artist can give a track away to an interlude and still make it worth listening to, that’s how you know they’re good.
Track 11, “Pusher,” was my favorite, not just for its haunting melody in the beginning but I also loved how easily it transitioned into the folksy and hopeful melody of the chorus. “Warm Foothills” was another favorite of mine with it’s romantic simplicity.
Track four, “Every Other Freckle” had to grow on me, though I was sold with the first verses, the chorus lost me a bit. But after a few listens I would say it’s one of the better tracks on the album and it is a prime example of the collaboration of music styles Alt-J experiments with.
“Left Hand Free” is the most different track, giving off a Black Keys vibe. “Hunger of the Pine,” and “Bloodflood pt. II” are other tracks that are more upbeat and complex.
Alt-J is dynamic and endearing, making me look forward to future albums.
I give “This is All Yours” 3.5 stars.