Alt-J 'RELAXER': Review

June 26, 2017

 

Alt-J have come back with their third album, and in their typical fashion, it’s no less weird than the previous two albums. However, it’s the kind of record that takes a few listens before you realise how good it is, unlike An Awesome Wave, which caught my attention immediately. However, give it a chance and its brilliance will eventually hit you. It’s a lot more prog-rock-y but with a firm folk-y feel to it too - proving that Alt-J aren't afraid to explore other genres and try out new things.

 

I've written my thoughts on the songs that have stood out the most from RELAXER!

 

 

3WW

 

3WW seemed at first an unusual choice for RELAXER's debut single. This largely electronic track starts off with a one and a half minute long instrumental introduction, incorporating a guitar riff, and electronic percussion until, at last -  the singing starts!

 

The gentle acapella vocals give off a trad-folk sound, mixing interestingly with the twangy guitar riff. Singing about a stranger stranded in an English coastal town, you do get a sense of isolation from the instrumentation and sound.

 

The exciting and satisfying climax of the song comes when Joe and Gus harmonise on “all these 3 worn words” (which apparently translates into “I love you”) and the sweet, emotional line "I want to love you in my own language". This is supported by strings from the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the seductive vocals of Wolf Alice, adding a certain sensuality to the track.

 

In Cold Blood

 

This is my favourite track on the album. It would have fit very well on An Awesome Wave; reminding me slightly of Left Hand Free and Taro. It’s an extremely powerful, playful, yet somewhat sinister track.

 

Starting with strange lyric; "01110011" (which a Google search tells me is binary code for 'S') it's rather unclear what the song is about, but it seems to be about a murder at a pool party, which is well conveyed with the the chiming organ, chaotic song structure, big horn section and quirky "lalalala" vocal hook.

 

Whatever it means, it's a catchy-as-hell track that we will definitely be hearing a lot of this summer.

 

House of the Rising Sun

 

Must admit I’m not a fan of this cover, but at least Alt-J have firmly put their own stamp on it, even altering the lyrics to give it a personal touch. All in all however, it’s a bit too dirgy for my liking.

 

Hit me like that Snare

 

The pulsating cowbell and aggressive guitar riff introduce this fun track. "Hit Me.." is Alt-J’s we-don’t-give-a-shit track. “Fuck you, I’ll do what I wanna do,” they sing. It’s uptempo, loud and in places even slightly discordant, reminding me of the Violent Femmes.

 

It stands out from the more electronic tracks on the album. Melodically, it’s not as interesting as the other tracks but the song feels like the necessary lift the album needed.

 

 

Adeline

 

The guys have said this song was written in Australia and is about a Tasmanian devil who falls in love with a woman whilst she watches him swim - it's another weird one, full of aquatic references.

 

I really like this track. The track has an atmospheric, chilled out sound, but contains a sadness to it, particularly in the repetition of "I wish you well". It's a slower paced track, but its dreamy haunting melody and harmonies make it a really nice one to listen to whilst reflecting.

 

 

Pleader

 

Pleader is another one of my favourite tracks on the album, providing a cracking finale - it really stands out. Starting with a strangely, almost atonal classical guitar part, you wonder which direction this song is going to go in.

 

The strings kick in and you are at once listening to a full orchestra. Suddenly, the vocals come in accompanied by a church choir and an organ. It's totally hymnal. Shut your eyes and you're transported to a church (which is what they were going for with this song - apparently it's a modern take on a hymn!).

 

Like most tracks on the album, it takes a very dark and sinister turn midway when the instrumentation becomes loud and erratic, before this apparently conflict is resolved and the song ends satisfactorily.

 

I am very curious and excited to see how this will be performed when we see them live next week @ Rock Wertcher festival in Begium.

 

Wikicommons: Darligulves

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London, UK