Album Review // Alt-J // An Awesome Wave
An Awesome Wave is the band Alt-J’s first album release, and it is just that: an awesome wave that washes over you from start to finish. These days, I find it rare for a record to come out that is a cohesive PIECE (I think the last great one I heard was m83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming). But I have to give these boys a high-five, because An Awesome Wave is the refreshing reminder that smart music does still exist. There are numerous tracks on this album that can certainly stand alone, however, when played start to finish, you can hear and feel a journey taken through the music. This record is honestly unlike anything I’ve heard before – the vocals, the drumming, the harmonies… it’s surreal and siiiiiick.
My assessment of the band: each member hails from the soggy lands of England (no wonder they are so kick ass). They met in college where they were pursuing degrees in various arts and literatures (2007). I think they graduated. Maybe they can confirm that, if they ever see this. If they did: kudos. They are nerdy, but the coolest kind. Alt-J is: Gwil (guitar/bass), Joe (guitar/vocals), Thom (drums), Gus (keys).
Now on to the music. The first track, Intro, sucks you in to what will be an adventure for your ears… it welcomes you to the landscape that they have created, and allows you to sink in to the sounds of serious musical mastery. It then drops you right into Interlude I, which sounds like some new school progressive Gregorian chant on helium. These short but sweet songs occur often throughout the record – they are the glue that holds this beast together. The third track, Tesselate, is the first noticeable “stand alone” track. By “stand alone” track, I mean it is a great single, and probably the point where people nod their heads and think, “Alright, I could get into this…”. The drums sound like a tinny metronome on some high grade coffee, who’s eyes keep twitching from the caffeine (yes, a lot of my musical interpretation is instruments doing various chemicals). In this song, Joe Newman sings “triangles are my favorite shape, three points where two lines meet”… so here is where I have to express my mixed feelings of their complete abduction of: The Triangle. If you don’t already know, this band totally associates themselves with triangles – after all, their band name IS a triangle if you strike the alt + j keys on the computer simultaneously (however, I just tried it on mine and it didn’t work). Anyway, I don’t know why it annoys me so much that they have taken over MY favorite shape, but it’s like they’ve started this triangle movement. At their shows, EVERYONE in the audience makes a triangle symbol with their fingers, and ¾ of their audience are screaming females (urogenital triangle, anyone?) I think it’s subliminal. Triangles are going to become the new owls (remember when owls exploded into the universe and are now the coolest things in the material world?). While I loathe their triangle molestation, I equally love it. I have mad respect for these dudes, so I feel like they are allowed to kidnap the triangle, because they carry on its coolness fo sho. I digress, before you all think I’m crazier than I really am.
Next up: Breezeblocks. Music video of the year, check it out, it’s awesome. The song is also awesome. You will find yourself chanting “please don’t go please don’t go I love you so I love you so”… it’s fun. Another transport happens with a lovely little guitar track, which calmly carries you into one of my favorites on the album: Something Good. This song makes me feel like I am swinging on wooden swing in my grandpa’s garden, however the lyrics remind you that when someone breaks your heart, the best medicine is to go out and do… stuff. Dissolve Me is my other favorite – it has an explosive bass, is extremely intense, visceral, and contains an EPIC ending.
This review is getting long winded – it is my first, and I’m not sure the “rules” for writing one, so I will try and paraphrase the rest. Trust me when I say the second half of the record is just as good as the first, and similar in style and delivery. They have crafted the order of songs in such a way that it is a flawless line of dominoes, each track leading you to the next, with seamless precision. There is no “drop-off” point where the songs start being sucky – it’s well-rounded perfection in its entirety. In addition to the album as a WHOLE telling a story, each song tells a story too. Fitzpleasure and Taro are two that stand out in their story telling, which I credit to these boys’ majors in college. Look ma! All your dollars for your son’s school paid off! No but seriously, get off your bums and do some research – see for yourself what these songs say!
Lastly, if at all possible, listen to this puppy on vinyl… the experience is way more badass for your ears, mind, body, and soul. It also makes for a great “sit and listen” with your friends – talking from experience. This is definitely a top runner for Album of the Year.
If you are still reading this, I’d like to say thank you for taking your time to read my disgustingly gushy praise for these boys, and this blog in general.
…and by clicking the album art at the top, you will be directed to the amazon page where you can (and should) support these dudes and buy a record/cd/etc! If you buy the vinyl, it comes with a free mp3 download. :thumbsup: