Riding in off the swell of 2012’s An Awesome Wave, British indie powerhouse alt-J (∆) has overcome the sophomore slump and laid claim to another surge of popularity with their latest release, out September 23 via Atlantic Records. If the brightest dreams and darkest fears could be codified, This Is All Yours would top every hill and fill every valley of this soundscape.
While still characteristically tethered to the sound that took the indie world by storm two years ago due to the band’s retention of album cohesion via interwoven track progressions, this album provides a fresh perspective on the style alt-J created with An Awesome Wave with a deeper sense of maturity.
This Is All Yours fulfills its promise by guiding the listener through a vividly emotional journey. Far from mere background music, the evolution of this album pulls the listener from their outside world and places them in the heart of exploration and artistic discovery. This special place, or “Nara,” is given shape as each track ebbs and flows about this metaphorical Eden; meanwhile, the broader themes of the album and a contrast between soft and sharp and light and dark unfold. Evoking the “Hallelujah,” “Nara” embodies everything pure, depicted with the sound of birds and bells where “love is the warmest color.”
Released as a second single several weeks ago, “Left Hand Free” presents the farthest departure from the tone of An Awesome Wave with distorted electric guitars and a strong alternative rock flavor. A sexy, attention-commanding guitar riff and a lyrical cadence follow the instrumental aspects of the track, which adds a wonderfully unique taste to the album. In the same vein, “Every Other Freckle” combines dozens of divergent parts and progressions to achieve a feeling similar to that of “Left Hand Free” where the stacking of parts and bizarre lyrics gives the track a sensuous fluidity, leaving the listener spellbound.
“Warm Foothills” provides arguably the brightest and most beautiful note to the album. Unidentified female vocals juxtapose Joe Newman’s pure falsetto and exclusively unique tone overtop of a medley of string instruments. Oozing love and tenderness, the perfect balance achieved in this track gives the listening experience more of a dream quality than that of consciousness. Further provoking reflection, “Pusher” asks, “Are you a Pusher or are you a Puller?;” its starts and stops add a slight melancholy. All of this builds to an electronic break into “Bloodflood pt II.” This track, a direct stylistic continuation from An Awesome Wave, embodies the contrasting themes of this album — calamity and disorder — quite literally linking this work to the past one in a chain of fluid symbolism.
The defining feature of alt-J’s work is its ability to present a different idea or feeling upon each separate listen. Like a cavern of treasure troves, each track conceals layer upon layer of nuances that give a powerful force and freshness to the album. If nothing else, alt-J has proven that they are able to conjure as many dragons as necessary to protect the musical genius and ingenuity emanating from each facet of their work.
Article by Conner Smith