Album Review by Claire Denson
Experimental and divergent, Alt-J’s new album, This is All Yours, is a piece of modern art. Just as the album art would imply, the record is abstract- but not in an appealing way. Some tracks work, while others fall flat. Yet one thing is clear: the album as a whole just does not deliver like the first one, An Awesome Wave, did.
Celestial instrumentals paired with Joe Newman’s sultry murmuring vocals give the band their dreamy “Alt-J” factor. However, the band’s former bassist, Gwil Sainsbury, left the band last January, and was not replaced. While the band’s debut album is polished and professional, the band’s new album is more eclectic. Unfortunately, Alt-J has met the same fate that countless other bands have, the sophomore slump.
The album features an entirely pan flute interlude (take that as you will) along with an overwhelming introduction for most listeners. Many of the album’s song titles are less than creative (see “Arrival in Nara,” “Nara,” and “Leaving Nara”). “Arrival in Nara” is a relatively unremarkable track, except for its outro. A wince-inducing three-second buzzing reminiscent of Modest Mouse’s “Fly Trapped in a Jar” is enough to rule out listening to the entirety of song. Spare yourself the headache (and the anxiety of having bees surrounding you).
Not all is inadequate though. The band introduced their bluesy side with “Left Hand Free,” which sounds like a track off the Black Keys’ Brothers album. Another experimental track, “Warm Foothills,” suggests the band is onto a new sound that works- and it may be Alt-J’s weirdest track yet. It’s a calming quintet with choppy word-by-word vocals offered by Newman, Conor Oberst, Lianne La Havas, Marika Hackman and Sivu, featuring a lovely whistling interlude. It makes you wonder: why is there no official video for this track? Just showing footage of each vocalist during his/her lines would be so simple yet so satisfying.
Despite the album’s experimentation, “This Is All Yours” still contains songs with Alt-J’s old sound for Awesome Wave lovers. “The Gospel of John Hurt” has the band’s similar old sound- they played it safe with this track, but there’s nothing striking about it. A more noteworthy track is “Every Other Freckle.” The track begins with anticipation and leads into a variety of unique, complementary instrumentals while remaining a catchy tune (side note: check out the video for “Every Other Freckle” to see a cat bedding into a bean bag in slow motion).
As an overall product, the satisfying dreaminess Alt-J’s debut album evoked just isn’t there in their new album. If you like Alt-J’s sound in An Awesome Wave, be sure to check out Mimicking Bird’s album Eons or Youth Lagoon’s The Year of Hibernation.
“Every Other Freckle” Official Music Video: