MUSIC blogs and reporters at The Guardian occasionally ramble on about the so called ‘Mercury Prize curse’. The premise is as follows: If an artist or band wins the prestigious Mercury Prize their career is doomed to fall into obscurity. So, when 2012 winners alt-J (or ∆ to their mums) announced the follow up to their acclaimed debut An Awesome Wave, one could expect them to only be listened to by the most obscure of hipsters, perhaps who mostly dabble in spoken-word-jazzcore, shortly before one of the members appears on Celebrity Masterchef. But no; in fact there has been a significant buzz around the indie pop group, who now operate as a threesome, after the departure of bassist Gwil Sainsbury earlier on this year. But can the band escape that trademark sound that symbolises the harsh regulations of student halls in Leeds?
In short: yes. I might even go as far to say that This is All Yours is actually better than their debut. You won’t find a song better than ‘Breezeblocks’ on this album, but it’s a different kind of enjoyment that you feel. Too many times a band can get compared to Radiohead. Hell, if I had a pound for every time someone brought up OK Computer, I could probably do this job full time. But alt-J are certainly moving towards the attitude of the ever changing band; aka they’re a bit like Radiohead. While they haven’t quite escaped the quiet indie sound yet (see ‘Arrival into Nara’ and ‘Pusher’) they’re on their way. Perhaps the most experimental track, ‘Hunger of the Pine’ is quite easily the best track on the album. It retains enough sound to be recognised as an alt-J number, but deviates enough to make it incredibly interesting to listen to, while at the same time making Miley Cyrus sound the best she ever has.
An electronic sound is an obvious necessity in alt-J’s music. However, when listening to This is All Yours, there are elements that suggest the band want to move towards a more classical side of music. ‘Interlude – Garden of England’ and ‘Choice Kingdom’, the former of which sounds like an excerpt from some of Genesis’ early work, feels like a softer, less indie side of the band. But the sound change doesn’t stop there, oh no. ‘Left Hand Free’ is a surprisingly Beatles-esque number, while the delightful ‘Warm Foothills’ combines both male and female voices into a flowing melody. While the ‘Nara’ series of songs come as a bit of a disappointment, and ‘Bloodflood Pt.II’ feels rather unnecessary, the rest of the tracklisting is highly Fitzpleasurable to listen to (d-did you see what I did there?).
Always hot on their feet, alt-J delve even deeper into the indie/folk/electronica/classical mash-up they have created. This is All Yours differs and develops compared to An Awesome Wave, thankfully. Far too often a band can get caught in the trap of recreating the sound that made them popular, but this is not the case. If anything, it feels like the time is drawing closer where alt-J will flip the bird to everyone and just go crazy experimental, and my God, I can’t wait for that.
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