Alt-J’s newest album cannot trump its predecessor

Alt-J%E2%80%99s+newest+album+cannot+trump+its+predecessor

Rachel Rubino

Photo courtesy of Windishagency.com

Alt-J’s “This is All Yours” satisfies a broad audience, but falls short of their freshman album, “An Awesome Wave.”

With hits like “Breezeblocks” and “Left Hand Free,” Alt-J’s sound is indisputably catchy. The indie rock band, based in Leeds, England, has been present on the music radar since their first album, “An Awesome Wave,” came out in 2012. Alt-J is more than just another alternative band, however, and “An Awesome Wave” supplies a far deeper scope beyond a couple of popular tunes.

Their new album, “This is All Yours,” opens with the song “Intro,” mirroring the chronological setup of their previous album. Lead singer Joe Newman’s chants give the opening symphony an ethereal vibe reminiscent of the tribe-like sounds of songs such as “Interlude I” and “Fitzpleasure” from “An Awesome Wave.” The song slowly builds in intensity, richly layering vocals with the pervasive beat of drums.

The following songs introduce a journey. “Arrival in Nara” and “Nara” place the listener into a narrative of a girl being pulled away by a rope on an unspecified trip. Told from the perspective of the girl’s lover, lead singer Joe Newman croons, “In my youth the greatest tide washed up my prize—you.” The string of evocative chanting continues, melodiously shifting form in the fourth song, “Every Other Freckle.”

Themes of possession and desire ring clear in lyrics such as, “I want to do all the things your lungs do so well…Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet.” The charged lyrics and euphonious plucking of electric guitar convey the raw, animalistic aspect of human appetite, which is further illuminated by the song “Hunger of the Pine.” The synthesized beat of the song builds as Newman sings, “Your heart wears knight armor, hunger of the pine.” A backtrack of Miley Cyrus chanting, “I’m a female rebel” makes up the climax of the tune while offering a voice to the enigmatic character of the woman.

The tension built up in previous songs is released by the melody of “Warm Foothills.” The romantic male and female duo is complimented by a cheerful, innocent whistling contrasting preceding songs. “I tie my life to your balloon and let it go,” the singers softly harmonize their voices. “Bloodflood Pt.II” offers a reprise to the song “Bloodflood” off their first album. The lustrous beats offer a new edge to the original song. The final song on the album, completing the chronologically titled sequence, is “Leaving Nara.”

Overall, “This is All Yours” was satisfying. I do not feel as passionate about it, however, as I do for “An Awesome Wave.” While I enjoyed Alt-J’s lyrical take on themes of possessive and unrequited love, it was repetitively strung throughout the album to the point of becoming generic. Even after listening to “This is All Yours” over a dozen times, I still become distracted during certain points because beats will be drawn out for too long and chants will seem mindlessly repeated rather than resonant.

These aspects contrast with my experience of their previous album, in which I was enraptured by the diversity of each song and its prevailing message. Regardless of these negative features, I still believe that Alt-J did a delightful job of diversifying their sound from the previous album while still appealing to the taste of their fans. I enjoyed the incorporation of wind instruments such as the flute in “Garden of Eden.” I also was particularly touched by the beauty of the duo in “Warm Foothills”. The purity of this song, in contrast to the more raw vibes throughout the album, is more reminiscent of “An Awesome Wave.”

With a personal rating of 4 out of 5 stars, I would definitely recommend listening to “This is All Yours.” Nevertheless, I find my tastes to be more inclined towards the band’s previous album. I value each and every song of their premier work. I find “An Awesome Wave” to be the type of album one should listen to all the way through in order to ensure the ultimate music-listening experience. “This is All Yours,” on the other hand, has proven to be an album to pick and choose favorites from—mine being “Intro”, “Choice Kingdom”, “Every Other Freckle”, “Warm Foothills,” and “Bloodflood Pt. II.” “This is All Yours” is more than worthy of a listen, but not of being esteemed a masterpiece.