Review: Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

Alt-J are the ultimate hipsters. While I write the term ‘hipster’, I have a cringe on my face but, at first glance, they fit the stereotype. Alt-J is the key command for the delta sign (Δ – a triangle*) on a Mac keyboard – you can’t find a hipper name. In photos, they refuse to have their faces showing – maybe looking at the camera is too ‘mainstream’.

*(For those unaware, triangles are the chosen shape of hipsters)

However, I may be a little harsh by throwing the ‘hipster’ term around so liberally. The peculiar race is known to have a love of the past and everything retro but Alt-J are not like this; so much current music just re-shapes past sounds, yet Alt-J seem to have created a whole new sound, codenamed ‘folkstep’. It describes their songs well; they are sort of peaceful dance music with acoustic sections. This is fresh and different, something a hipster will never be, no matter how hard they try.

An Awesome Wave is Alt-J‘s debut album, yet it seems to mature and well-rounded to be their first shot. It is all built upon and around the drum beat. Thom Green (the drummer, obviously) drums like he’s a machine; he is the beating heart of the songs. On top of this are the twangy guitar rhythms, synth tunes, and multi-layered harmonics to complete the sound. In songs such as ‘Fitzpleasure‘, the dubstep part of ‘folkstep’ becomes quite clear, with the wobble bass reverberating in the background, constantly supported by the tight drum line. This is topped by harmonics that mirror those of Django Django and, in all, something unique is created.

Alt-J – Fitzpleasure

Alt-J made their album available to stream three weeks ago (That was at the time of writing – by the time this is published, it was probably about two months ago). With the songs, they provided a quick insight into the lyrics meanings (while it may take the skill of interpretation out, it does make my life a lot easier). The most interesting of these stories is, possibly, ‘Dissolve Me‘. It is about one of the band member’s bedtime routine with their mum. Together, they would describe a day at the beach, and the band member would fall asleep to the mum making sea noises. It is such an amazing song- the story behind it just adds another dimension. Whenever they sing the line “She makes the sound, the sound the sea makes, to calm me down“, it is a peaceful break, one in which slipping into a dreamy realm is promoted, much like the sounds did for the child of the story. It is like a poem, something magical.

Alt-J – Dissolve Me

The album contains three ‘interlude’ tracks that are around one minute long, quite an unusual feature. The first is called ‘Ripe & Ruin‘, and is just vocals, one long harmony. The later are called ‘Guitar‘ and ‘Piano‘. They provide a rest in the album. ‘Guitar‘ is literally just a guitar line, with the sound of a road and some voices faintly drifting in from the background. ‘Piano‘ is similar; it is like a fifty second duet between a piano and a voice. You could quite easily listen to the album and not notice it, yet it’s so beautiful.

An Awesome Wave surprised me. I expected to like it, but it really blew me away. It is special. For a debut album, Alt-J couldn’t have done better. They are an exciting band, which is a rarity among today’s mundane mainstream music.

9/10

{Insert Relevant Title Here}

I will now attempt to write something deep and meaningful, I will probably end up sounding pretentious.

Music is often referred to as a drug; such a slogan is regularly written across t-shirts or other attire. I always have found this concept weird, so the ‘music = drug’ cliché has become one I don’t partially like. Yes, music is addictive and one can often feel like something is missing when going for a long time without it. Yet music can do little damage. One never reads of tragic stories like “A man’s life was ruined when he became addicted to reggae”, or “Teenager dies of dubstep overdose”. To me, music has nothing but positive implications; while I do think some music is rather unpleasant, it is never really harmful.

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Looks Like You’ve Lost a Girl

Another rubbish title, sorry about that. If you have any better suggestions then leave a comment and I would be happy to change it. I did say I would post some new album reviews but I’m not really in the mood to write them, to be honest I don’t know what to write. Instead I thought I should do a post about some electro and indie pop music.

If seems like New Young Pony Club have possessed my speakers because at the moment they are one of the only bands I listen to. I have had their album ‘The Optimist’ for a while, but I never thought of listening to it. Then a few weeks ago I was trying to think of bands to play on my radio show and thought I should have a proper listen. I was captivated as soon as I heard ‘Lost a Girl’, the first song. It is a really great song and for a while I didn’t even listen to the rest of the album, just stuck that one song on repeat. When I finally listened to the other songs I realised that they were just as good, if not better.

I don’t normally listen to much electro music; I have a song by We Have Band that I listen to a bit, but apart from that New Young Pony Club are one of the only bands of that style that I really like. The songs have quite a lot of different sounds going on at the same time, a combination of guitars and synths, and there is a nice depth to their songs. The song below is probably my favourite song of theirs at the moment. It captures all of their sounds in one song.

I will try and get all the promised posts to you soon. I only have a few days to write my albums of 2011 so that will be my main priority.

 

Good News and Good Music

Christmas has come and gone, over a month of preparation and shopping for 24 hours of gift giving and celebration. Not surprisingly I received numerous CDs, some I wanted or knew about, others I had never heard of. This means I now have a lot of albums to review. So far I have listened to:

Slow Club – Yeah So
Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
Wye Oak – Civilian
Summer Camp – Welcome to Condale


There is also more that I haven’t listened to and can’t remember the names of. I will try to write reviews for them as soon as possible. As well as the reviews, I am starting to think about my albums of 2011 and I will write them out over the next week.

The good news is that I now don’t have people visiting, leaving me with much more time to listen to music and write words for you to read.

Peggy Sue: Indie? Folk? Or Just Pure Brilliance?

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days, I have not been at home, or at a laptop, thus I have not been able to write anything meaningful. I hope the following post makes up for my lack of commitment.

As the winter winds howl in my ears, and the cold rain fills the air with a blanket of icy needles, I put on some suitably wintry sounds. I’m not talking about that Christmas rubbish, admitted there is now some good stuff, but some atmospheric moody music that comes in the form of a band called Peggy Sue. They are a three-piece indie folk band from Brighton. They have released two albums but their most recent one, called Acrobats, is the only one I have heard. The album is slow-paced, with repetitive rhythms that are almost ritual-like. The way the vocals are harmonised creates quite a chilling effect, put these on top of the hypnotic music and you get the soundtrack to my winter.

The song below is called ‘Song & Dance’. It was not my first choice of song, but the ones that I would have liked to have posted were not on YouTube. I really like the guitar sound, and the beat makes you go into a kind of trance, swaying with the music. Enjoy it, and I may post a few Christmas songs over the next few days to get everyone in the festive spirit.