alt-J: Relaxer (Canvasback Music) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Canvasback Music

Jun 01, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One wouldn’t assume that a series of zeroes and ones could be sung in a convincing, let alone catchy, refrain. It might also seem equally impossible to sing a revolutionary new rendition of a song as overexposed as “The House of the Rising Sun.” Yet alt-J do all that and more on their new LP, Relaxer.

Yes, the British trio have plenty of surprises on this new album, their third since 2012’s Mercury Prize winning debut, An Awesome Wave. At a refreshingly restrained eight tracks, this compact and filler free release still explores a vast array of genres and styles in its forty minute running time. The hauntingly hushed take on “The House of the Rising Sun” is one of the most startling of those curveballs. Following that song (the album’s third track) with the threadbare lo-fi, garage rocker “Hit Me Like That Snare,” is all but whiplash inducing. And if that wasn’t enough, they continue their genre shuffling immediately after that with “Deadcrush,” which has a hip-hop beat.

This all-over-the-map approach makes Relaxer a bit dizzying and tough to digest at first, and yet you’ll be immediately captivated and intrigued by its distinctive mix. And once you give it a few more listens, many of its varied songs will worm their way into your ears as some of this summer’s best indie rock offerings. Indeed, “frenzied” or “varied” or even “wildly ambitious” might have all been more apt monikers, but regardless of what it is (or should have been) called, you won’t be able to settle down and stop talking about Relaxer anytime soon. Alt-J’s fellow alt-rockers will have a tough time breaking into that conversation even as it comes time for everyone to draw up their “best of 2017” lists, seeing as this astoundingly eclectic album is sure to rank high. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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