It’s been two dreadfully long years since alt-J sent us into psychedelic overdrive with An Awesome Wave and now the English boys are back at it. This Is All Yours dropped last week and it’s a record that certainly reminds us that alt-J are on an entirely different level of music production.
I mean, it’s already been argued that these guys are extra-terrestrial, what with the way they effortlessly toss together unconventional sounds to create something that actually makes sense. This Is All Yours, in comparison, is darker then their debut. It’s heavier, in both technical and contextual aspects. Altogether, it’s witty, snarky, daring, but just so authentically alt-J that it’s damn charming to boot.
Frontman Joe Newman offers his signature haunting and oft times wavering falsetto, but backs them with more confidence than we’ve heard from him in the past. Keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton weaves seamlessly through Thom Greene’s percussion, painting bright melodies that climb, tremble, then fall so gracefully you hardly recognize they’ve passed by until the next track breaks the rhythm.
This Is All Yours is odd. It’s a little ADD and a little OCD, maybe even slightly manic-depressive. Not all the songs seem to make sense for the record right off the bat, but then again, they do. There’s no pointed formula, but there is fluidity and some strange concept of cohesion. They pull you in with an intro, aptly titled “Intro,” that is, indeed, an actual intro. “Arrival In Nara” is your formal welcome at the doorway of alt-J’s world for the next 55 minutes. Then there’s “Nara,” which escorts you past the breezeway and into the juicier bits of the album. Carrying through, there are a handful of radio-friendly/pop-ier tracks, an interlude, and a luscious tune that features none other than Conor Oberst, Lianna La Havas, Sivu, and Marika Hackman — woah. The tail-end of the record hosts a couple of emotion-infused tunes, then, alas, it’s time to leave Nara…hence “Leaving Nara.” But then! You can reflect on the glorious time with “Lovely Day.” See? How lovely. Let’s come back again tomorrow.
I could dive into each individual track and attempt to pick them apart to explain what alt-J aimed to achieve (and generally succeeded in, as far as we can tell), but that would destroy the magic of finding your own relationship with the album. So, go on. Take your own damn trip to Nara!
PS. The album is streaming on Spotify. Ain’t that a treat?