After just one album that mesmerised the world into understanding that "normal" guys can make intellectually heart pounding music that permeates the masses, Alt-J are back and their second 'In-tro' with its eclectic churning bass and choral 'La's' confirms they're not ready to hand over the crown as Britain's premier art band just yet.
'An Awesome Wave' was the sound of Britain in 2012 and you couldn't breathe for hearing the likes of 'Matilda', 'Tessellate' or 'Breezeblocks', and for once, the saturation didn't feel overbearing, it felt deserved. It's no surprise then that this time round they've got a Mercury Award under their belts. There's a stigma that goes along with winning this award, but Klaxons and Speech Debelle aside, it's still a fairly prestigious award and with 'This Is All Yours' you can see the difference the money has made.
Gone are the staple Casio sounds you were loving previously, to be replaced with samples of Miley Cyrus songs and weird love lyrics to rival Prince: "Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet". The production here has turned everything up to 11. The ghostly post-dub of 'Hunger Of The Pine' is deeper and heavier, the indelible drumming of Thom Green is both sparser and heavier. They use their space in a much more provocative manner here and take no prisoners on what they want to achieve. 'Warm Foothills' is like listening to Keaton Henson if he had a personality transplant and has a whistling interlude to rival Peter Bjorn and John. This is a much more folksy record, whatever that means in this post genre world.
'Pusher' is a beautiful, stripped back love song with Newman drawing out his unique sounding vo-cals to flow steadily into the piano intro of 'Bloodflood Pt.II' which is fused with clipped pulsating electro beats. It sneaks in at the end, but is one of the standout tracks of the album taking lyrics straight from both 'Bloodflood' and 'Fitzpleasure', redefining their past in a new, more intense and complex sound.
Lyrically, Alt-J have never been the most straightforward of bands, but here we have new planes of weirdness with references to the likes of Aslan - yes, that Aslan - and metaphors to pharaohs amongst others. Latest single 'Every Other Freckle' with its medieval lute-like breakdown is essen-tially a forlorn wish list of these love metaphors and while some, such as the aforementioned crisp packet incident and "Let me be the wallpaper that papers up your room", are out there, there's al-ways "I wanna do all the things your lungs do so well" and "If you really think that you can stomach me" that graze the surface of the well of emotions to become some of the most spot on words in recent pop.
Each song is beholden unto itself and there's a lot of ideas here, most tracks sound like three songs in one, while staying the right side of messy. 'Nara' is a bold, stadium-sized journey and 'Left Hand Free' is their strangest and most straightforward track to date with its tinny, Jack White-esque guitar Americana. It's their clear attempt to break the American market and, with its Levi commercial sound, it's sure to do the job. There is no denying, though, the quintessential Britishness of Alt-J and we didn't need the contrived flute interlude of 'Garden of England' to hammer it home.
It's hard to say if this record will be as well-received as its forbearer both critically and otherwise, but Alt-J have to be credited for what they've done here, as one of few bands that are so heavily on the 'what will they do next?' list they could have coasted along with a rehash of what went before. Instead, they've progressed further, defining themselves as some kind of experimental folk prodi-gies. They've shaken off the Radiohead for a new generation sound of yore and become a band that truly is unique which isn't something that you can say about most bands as popular as Alt-J are.
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