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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Forward-thinking musicality excels in ‘This Is All Yours’

alt-J

"This is All Yours"

Indie-rock band alt-J is back with more of its signature, haunting harmonies and intricate layers of sound with the release of its sophomore album, “This is All Yours.” Despite the departure of founding band member and bassist Gwil Sainsbury, the band has produced an album that is easily up to par with its debut, Mercury Prize–winning album, “An Awesome Wave.” This time around, listeners get a much darker and complex album but still with the recognizable alt-J sound.

Alt-J kicks off the album with the simply titled “Intro,” setting the stage for the rest of the album with ambling melodies, ambiguous lyrics and a song structure that seems to have movements between differing sections instead of choruses or verses. Lead singer Joe Newman’s signature, yearning vocals are featured heavily throughout the album in songs like “Arrival in Nara” and “Warm Foothills,” leaving the listeners engaged, straining their ears to make sure they don’t miss a single lingering note.

Many songs, including “Choice Kingdom,” feature droning harmonies reminiscent of Radiohead’s precision and eerie sounds. The overlapping, intricate musical parts heard on almost all of the tracks reveal the attention to detail in the editing, shown in “Hunger of the Pine,” where an edited sample from Miley Cyrus’ song “4×4” is looped, providing the track with some creative flair.

Alt-J’s distinct, electronic style is evident throughout the album, though unfortunately this does cause some of the songs to seem to blend together, as a few of the same samples were used throughout the album.

Just the opposite of this occurs with the mystical-sounding folk song “Garden of England.” However, it sticks out and seems very out of place. Though one can appreciate an innovative band’s artistic freedom, this song leaves the listener confused and questioning the reason for the song’s inclusion. Its usage of purely wind instruments and no vocals makes it seem to be more suited for something heard at a Renaissance festival, not on an indie-rock album.

“Left Hand Free,” however, does provide a nice change of pace for the album with a raw rock sound in comparison to the rest of the record. The prominent drums and soulful keyboard solo give the tune a late-1960s rock vibe, standing out among the album’s indie-rock stylings.

“This is All Yours” can best be described as hauntingly beautiful. The overlapping arrays of melodies paired with lamenting vocals and experimental styles intrigue the ears at the profound finished project, leaving the listener pleased at this stimulating collaboration.