alt-J: An Awesome Wave | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #42 - The Protest Issuealt-J


Canvasback Music

Sep 25, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue Bookmark and Share

“Triangles are my favorite shape/three points where two lines meet,” guitarist Joe Newman sings in “Tessellate,” offering up one explanation into why this Cambridgeshire, U.K. band would name themselves after the Mac keyboard shortcut that produces a triangle shape. An Awesome Wave, alt-J’s debut record of offbeat love songs and weird odes to geometry, has already become a surprise hit in their native country.

The 13 tracks here don’t easily fit into popular categories. Persistent rhythms and disjointed piano melodies are given a smattering of digital blippery that’s not unlike something you’d hear on a recent Radiohead record; these aren’t their most interesting qualities. Newman’s unusual voice, which flits between a nasal lilt and an airy falsetto, guides listeners through often unorthodox lyrical subject matter, including a tribute to Luc Besson’s The Professional (“Matilda”) and the Where the Wild Things Are-referencing “Breezeblocks.” It’s when alt-J break down into their frequent (and gorgeous) vocal harmonies that you’ll start to wonder just how they can mash it all together. The band calls it ‘trip-folk,’ which is a bit silly-sounding-and doesn’t really fully encompass what they’re doing-but if they’re treading new ground, they’re free to call it anything they damn well please. It’s uncommon for bands to achieve cohesiveness amidst such high levels of quirk; on their debut, alt-J have done much better than that.


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