alt-J’s soft, silken tunes
Meeting at Leeds University, four friends helped create what is now one of the largest indie rock bands of our time. alt-J signed its first deal with Infectious Records in 2011 for their introductory album titled, An Awesome Wave. Released in 2012, this album featured noteworthy singles such as “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure.”
In their newest album, The Dream, Alt-J takes a more relaxed approach to the song-making process with the lead singer, Joe Newman, taking on a more mellow, smoother tone. This new sound is featured on tracks such as “Hard Drive Gold,” “U&ME,” “Bane” and more.
The first track on the album, “Bane,” starts off strong with audio surely out of the ’50s or ’60s of a man cracking open a can, cooly exclaiming “Cold and sizzling!” From there, he slinks off into a sort of comedic, opera-like singing repetition of the phrase, “I sold my soul/For a sip at school/A swimming pool.” Then, instrumentals suddenly evoke a quick, wiggly dropping off into a sudden desperate collapse of sound.
This song’s longer format at 5 minutes and 10 seconds allows the artists to experiment in various ways to see where the hymns capabilities may expand. Wacky, comedic, and almost theatrical, this song showcases Alt-J’s experimental take on electric sounds.
The second song on the album, “U&ME” evokes the feeling of casually laying in the sun, with such lyrics as “Summer holiday, having fun.” This is done through the soft, gentle strumming of an electric guitar in the background along with subtle “ooohs.” This song is perfect for casual listening around the house.
With some interpretations of lyrical undertones, “Hard Drive Gold” discusses a lucrative endeavor by a 15-year old who trades crypto for a profitable sum. Funny and modern, this idyllically sung song may also be hinting at some of the pitfalls of this business adventure, with lyrics like “My teacher took me to one side and told me I was (scum).”
The last song on the album, “Powders,” is once again a softer lullaby reminiscent of the softness associated with dragging one’s finger over a large pool of water. This track features elongated vocals, faint sounds of washed-out waves and a slow electric guitar solo subtly harmonized in.
Overall, The Dream comes back to true and tried themes of Los Angeles, the seaside, bodies of water, technology, consumerism and more. Only taking place in the quick span of 12 tracks, Alt-J is able to produce a wondrous sequence of experimental lullabies that once again showcases their undebatable artistic skills.