With new album RELAXER just around the corner, indie pop rock giants alt-J have released the new single “Adeline.” According to the band, the song, written on-tour, is set in Australia and tells the story a Tasmanian devil falling in love with a woman as he watches her swim.
Though the story may not sound all that beautiful inherently, the song just might convince you it is. The instrumental is formed by a luscious string section recorded at Abbey Road Studios and leads the track through some murky sonic territory. Singer Joe Newman’s voice is often hidden behind the dense mix, almost as an additional textural layer to the song: appropriate, for the swimming concept behind the song.
“Adeline” is definitely tinged with sadness, driven by melancholy chords and maudlin vocals. Even the lyrics offer little hope of success in the romantic premise. In the opening verse, Newman sings “Down in Tasmania / where the devil’s jaws are far too weak / to tear you away.”
Far closer to first release “3WW” than “In Cold Blood,” “Adeline” is definitively slow. Its build requires patience, and is marked by restraint. The buildups in the latter half of the nearly six-minute track culminate not in climactic explosions of joy but in quiet relinquishments. “Swim on,” Newman almost whispers, “I wish you well.”
It takes a few listens to really get it and to get over the distance of Newman’s vocals. He sings not as himself, but on behalf of another through an insurmountable barrier. But underneath the pensive lyrics, the opening sounds give way to a driving heartbeat of drums around the two-minute mark that, while distant and muffled, carry the weight of the gorgeous orchestration resting above.
Check out the video for the song below.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela