Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ (Infectious Music 2012)

Other name considerations included Daljit Dhaliwal and FILMS


Alt-J – interesting name? My initial reaction was an awkward combination of eye rolling, eyebrow raising, sighing and wry-smiling. I’ll give you a moment to digest. Moving on.


Alt-J are named after the Mac keyboard command for a triangle sign…Yeah, me neither. But nonetheless I had heard much about the BBC “Sound of the Year” nearly-rans (formerly featuring such musical luminaries as Adele & Jessie J :O). The band are four Leeds University arty-types who spent most of their recording time in Cambridge for this album.

And what an excellent album “An Awesome Wave” is.  My penny-dropping moment came during a particularly busy-spell at work with the album playing on repeat three successive times, I suddenly realised that I didn’t mind. You can appreciate that listening to an album thrice consecutively and dare I say enjoying it is quite something.

However on further listens my appreciation has appreciated. Musically the album is not ground-breaking but instead seems to piece together the current edges of emerging musical trends and knits the seams cohesively to create something new all together. The band have harnessed the wave of new sounds into something quite awesome. For example the almost dub-step-like baseline from “Fitzpleasure” with a hard rocking guitar sound, a similar effect is employed on “Something Good”.  alt-J have drawn Radiohead comparisons from some quarters; a dangerous step considering the band have only produced one very polished album thus far & given this year’s smattering of disappointing sophomore efforts e.g. Sleigh Bells & Miike Snow.

Their frequent undulating key changes are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite new-wave, goth, art-rockers, The Cure exemplified most perfectly in ‘Something Good.’

But labelling albums ‘The Next Something’ is the ball-park of the ever wide-eyed optimist. Alt-J are certainly influenced by bands such as Radiohead, Wild Beasts & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah which is excellent furrow to plough. And while we’re at it, their frequent undulating key changes are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite new-wave, goth, art-rockers, The Cure exemplified most perfectly in ‘Something Good.’

The feel of the record is something I haven’t fully enjoyed since 2009’s LPs from Wild Beasts (Two Dancers) and The xx. The band in fact recently toured with Wild Beasts. All three albums occupy the same imagined recording studio space in my head (not literally). An Awesome Wave achieves a stripped-back half-electronic half-folk effect- which is better than it sounds.  According to the band their music is “Trip Folk” which is as good a description as any.

An important facet of the band is singer Joe Newman’s marmite vocals, a gurning bluesy voice which only adds to the aura, similar to Hayden Thorpe’s. When they’re not falsetto or acapella .  The records lyrics are packed with knowing-references to works as diverse as Luc Besson’s masterpiece Leon to Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’

The stand out tracks for me are ‘Tessellate’ (a dancey number) and ‘Breezeblocks’ (a desperate plea to a fleeing lover). So give it a listen. Or don’t if you can’t be arsed. But you may as well. You clearly have to much time on your hands if you’ve just read these 500 words. You could’ve started The Great Gatsby…


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3 Responses to “Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ (Infectious Music 2012)”

  1. sains Says:

    EXCELLENT review encompasssing all that is new in this band’s ‘indielellectual’ interpretation of contempary evolving music trends – nil like it to date

  2. jadelr89 Says:

    Long time, no see! Came across this blog in work – you write very well; it sounds just like you : ) hope you’re good!

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