As of today, iTunes radio began streaming Alt-J’s highly anticipated sophomore album This Is All Yours. The album will be released on September 23rd, but my curiosity got the best of me, so I listened through it before my pre-order download comes in next week.
The build up to this album was interesting. A few months ago, the first single “Hunger of the Pine” was released, met with initial skepticism over the usage of a Miley Cyrus sample. Then, a few weeks later, alt-J released the track “Left Hand Free”, an oddly pop oriented Black Key’s sound-a-like song. I admit, this song really had me worrying about this album. Was my beloved alt-J descending into the ranks of pop music? The last single, “Every Other Freckle” assuaged my fears, but left me completely baffled as to what this album was even going to sound like.
My fears were completely unfounded, because This Is All Yours is an awesome album. Alt-J created a worthy successor to their début album and has officially solidified their place as one of the premier indie bands of the 2010’s.
Good news: “Left Hand Free” is definitely the black sheep of the album. Most of the songs sound more like “Every Other Freckle.”This Is All Yours sees alt-J expanding their sound and their influence away from the fractured independent rock of their début record. The band feels more full than they did on their last album, (which is weird considering that they lost a member and are now down to three members) but seems to be embracing a more experimental sound, with odd instrumentation, fractured electronic sampling and fascinating song construction. This Is All Yours proves that the band understands what their strengths are, and delivers songs that contain unexpected surprises and quick 180 degree turns.
While most bands tend to attempt to appeal to a wider audience on their sophomore record, This Is All Yours feels less accessible (but more rewarding) than the début album An Awesome Wave. Alt-J seems to be more concerned with crafting hauntingly atmospheric songs that feel like a long nature walk as opposed to the schizophrenic musical potpourri of their last album. The eclecticism is still there, but feels more focused and purposeful. A lot of these songs are laid back and absolutely lovely, with alt-J falling into a more pastoral mode on the beautiful “Warm Foothills” and “The Gospel of John Hurt.” The only downside to this new-found dimension is that This Is All Yours has less stand out tracks as An Awesome Wave, however feels more complete as an album. This Is All Yours shows a side of alt-J that we only caught glimpses of on the last album and proves that they are a dynamic and complex band.
This album feels like a natural evolution of alt-J’s sound, and shows that their début success was not just a one hit wonder. Alt-J has proven that they should be rightfully considered one of the most interesting and impressive contemporary musical acts.
Key Tracks: “Hunger of the Pine”, “Every Other Freckle”, “Nara”, “Warm Foothills”