Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Awesome Wave | alt-J

Rating: ★★★★☆

I'm about a year late on listening to An Awesome Wave, the newest release from the indie rock band alt-J, but now that I've heard it, I thought I was time to give it a proper review here.

I came across the name alt-J when reading about the track listing to Ellie Goulding's upcoming release, Halcyon Days. The deluxe edition of the album will come with Goulding's cover of "Tessellate," one of the single from An Awesome Wave. 

After hearing Goulding's cover, I wanted to compare it to the original. At first I wasn't the biggest fan of alt-J's version, but now "Tessellate" is one of my favorites from this album.

"Tessellate" covers a love triangle, but also references the band's trademark delta symbol (∆) with lyrics "Triangles are my favorite shape / Three points where two lines meet." It can be assumed that one of the members of this said triangle is shot and kill by another, but all three of them originally had the intention of killing each other ("Three guns and one goes off / One's empty, one's not quick enough / One burn, one red, one grin / Search the graves while the camera spins"). They're twisted lyrics, yes, but they're great lyrics.

I'm not particularly sure what's going on the video for "Tessellate," but the cinematography is outstanding. The video is composed of different shots of a large group of people: there are some girls lazily trying to dance, an angry man smoking a cigarette, men gambling with a pair of dice, and a really angry dog. It's sounds really dumb in text, but it's memorizing when actually watching the video.

Another one of the highlights from this album is "Breezeblocks," which has reached the most success out of all of the singles from An Awesome Wave. Like "Tessellate," one of the best aspects of "Breezeblocks" is its video, which is a scripted murder scene played in reverse. In the video, a man's mistress ties up his wife and throws her in the closet. When the man arrives home, he finds his wife in his house... as well as the mistress, who sneaks up behind him to kill him with a steak knife. After a nearly three-minute long struggle, the man ends the fight by killing the mistress in the bathtub with a cinder block. That's some pretty demented shit, but it sure is creative.

The lead singer of alt-J, Joe Newman, has an odd yet unique voice that takes some getting used to. It can sound really pinched and strained at times, and Newman often times slurs many of his words together and it is hard to even understand him. Once I took a few of listens to some of alt-J's songs, his voice magically turned from moderately-irritating to pretty average. 

Newman reminds me of Mark Foster of Foster The People in a sense. When "Pumped Up Kicks" debuted, I couldn't stand it but after I got used to Foster's unusual tone, I took a strong liking to the song and now Torches proudly sits in my music collection. Both Newman and Foster aren't exemplary vocalists, but they're definitely not sub-par.

Any fans of alternative rock will be sure to like An Awesome Wave, that is, if they can get over the initial shock of Newman's voice. Both their lyrics and videos are demented and twisted, and their overall sound is extremely infectious. All of those elements together made for a great band, as well as a great album. If you haven't heard of the band before, I highly suggest you check them out now.

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