Album Review: Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
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5/5 In an era where the sheer volume and variety of social media can turn a musical act into a star after 5 minutes (see one Conor Maynard), we can become somewhat overloaded with the latest gossip and hype. It can sometimes become quite a challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff. Alt-J, however, did us all a favour and bucked this trend. Indeed, in many ways, it seems like they were a band never looking to get their music publicised. The band refused to show their faces in early pictures. They chose an odd name which gives search engines’ a headache - if you haven’t already heard, Alt-J is the command used to get the ‘delta’ sign ∆. (Oh and before you try it, it only works on Macs). They don’t even have a wikipedia page. Alt-J then are somewhat of a abnormality in the modern landscape of music. That’s not to say the band have’t been hyped (reviewers have gushed for months) or unknown (one of their tracks, ‘Breezeblocks’, has graced Radio One); more that the band, made up of four Leeds University graduates, have taken a Travis-esque path and put their music, not the band, as the vanguard of their image. A risk maybe - especially in an age of celebrity-driven mainstream culture - but one that has payed off for Alt-J, who have produced one of the most interesting and compelling debut albums in recent memory with An Awesome Wave. The record is simply captivating, creating a dense atmosphere of expansive rhythms and spectacular harmonies, creating sweet endearing nuggets of alternative-pop. Nowhere is this more obvious than ‘Breezeblocks’, which is perhaps the album’s standout song and middle ground. The track begins with Joe Newman’s spoken-warble starts, encompasses oriental tinkling bells, and then rips into action mid-way through; cascading voices of “please don’t go, please don’t go, I love you sooo” behind a fast-tempo undercurrent of gorgeous guitar and colourful synth melody. It’s difficult to sum up in words, but the song is simply mesmerising every time you listen to it.
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