I had the pleasure of reviewing alt-J’s upcoming album Relaxer early (full album released June 9th). The first thing to note, before even listening to the album, is the stylish, retro-game-like album cover.
The album opens with “3WW” where soft dreamy percussion creates a magical trippy ascension. The hallowing vocals of alt-J return in their wispy fashion and the change of tone throughout the song provides moments of ecstasy, fear and relaxation. An uncommon yet beautifully eloquent combination. The female voice is that of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell which fits perfectly with the male voices of alt-J. The video to accompany is a cinematic masterpiece that resembles a modern take on Romeo and Juliet. The song’s poetic depth is highly characteristic of alt-J and sets the tone of the album straight away. This certainly is not a just pop album.
“A powerful outro leaves a lasting impression on what will surely go down as an alt-J classic.”
We then progress to “In Cold Blood”. A burst of upbeat, “Left-Hand Free” style indie band power. This does result in losing the trippy tone but the powerful horns and catchy “la la la” chant makes this an epic. A powerful outro leaves a lasting impression on what will surely go down as an alt-J classic and a suitable song to make the charts and bring commercial value to Relaxer. Interestingly, the opening line, “01110011”, is the UTF-8 code for “∆” in binary. alt-J is how to type out “∆” on a mac.
The album returns to slow, melodic trippy vibes and even sounds medieval with “House of the Rising Sun” but unlike The Animals “House of the Rising Sun” this one is a bit boring. “Hit me like that snare” provides a darker twist and “Deadcrush” is an intense journey which seems to associate itself with the cover art perfectly. Newman’s bizarrely unique vocal range is exercised in the chorus. “Adeline” sounds as if Hans Zimmer was producing it for a huge motion picture, it will almost definitely give you goose bumps. Powerful stuff from alt-J. “Last Year” then goes back to a tone of misery featuring a stunning female vocals. Sticking with it’s cinematic tones, the album finishes off with “Pleader”, recorded with a full band in Abbey Road, this provides a powerful outro for what is a highly powerful album.
Close your eyes and get lost in this mysteriously illusive album. It doesn’t have the same journey-like effect as This is All Yours and it doesn’t provide as many indie classics as An Awesome Wave but it is beautifully poetic and holds deeper meaning than I myself, as a humble listener, can grasp. Down to interpretation, this album is an art piece.