Alt J deliver soft, noir indie rock Relaxer
Alt J – Relaxer (Infectious Music)
Genre – Indie Rock
Alt J’s journey began at the end of the indie boom. Throughout the noughties indie anthems were prevalent across the airwaves, but come 2012, manufactured plastic pop has overtaken guitar led music.
In some ways Alt J couldn’t have timed it more perfectly when they arrived with An Awesome Wave in 2012, bringing their juggernaut indie pop style to the table. With indie staples like The Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian well established arena bands, the kids wanted something new, and Alt J, much like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and Noah and The Whale, were on hand to deliver.
The next five years have seen Alt J struggle to nail down a real identity, and album number three was an opportunity to really quell the doubters and establish their sound. When Relaxer arrived, it was wrapped in intriguing sounds, fascinatingly sinister lyrics and vocals to die for, but no definitive direction.
Is that a bad thing? Or, are Alt J too cool to be pinned to one sound? Throughout Relaxer, Alt J bring a brilliant Velvet Underground reference points to the table, with elements of experimentation and noise rock on offer. This is most notable in Hit Me Like That Snare, which is loaded with all of the defiance associated with the 60s icons, most notability with the lyric ‘FUCK YOU, I’ll do…. What I wanna do.’
The thick, dark vibes of Hit Me Like That Snare are a far cry from the delicate, string led opener 3WW, which sees Joe Newman deliver soft, high pitched vocals in a duet with Wolf Alice’s Ellie Roswell. The five minute opener could have been split into two tracks, or alternatively cut by 90 seconds, as the string opening starts to drag, while the second half is steeped an infectious nerdy appeal.
As the album moves on, it simply becomes more interesting, with such an array of sounds on offer. In Cold Blood sees the Leeds based band bring a faster approach to the table, before House of The Rising Sun sees the pace drop again, in a slow, intimate Bon Iver style.
This interchanging pace continues throughout the album, with the eclectic sonics and equisite harmonies rippling into the brilliantly sincere Adeline. The track, which sees Alt J mix groaning vocals, with intricate finger picking before a powerful explosion from Gus Unger-Hamilton’s keys take the track reach euphoric levels, all the while fully contained within a bubble of calm.
On the whole, Relaxer is a mesmerising experimentation that has seen Alt J throw all their influences in a blender and produce a delicious rock and roll smoothie that is filled with dark undertones. Forget this definitive sound bullshit – this is an exciting album, and an experiment that has paid off.
RUSHONROCK RATED 8.5/10 FUCK YOU, I’ll do…. What I wanna do!
Northumbria University Journalism graduate, rock and roll enthusiast and co-editor of RUSHONROCK.com.