Album Review: Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

on Monday, May 28, 2012
∆ (Alt-J) - 'An Awesome Wave' (UK Release: 28 May '12) // Words: Jack Thomson

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave album artwork

In 2005, The Maccabees released their debut single 'X-Ray', in 2006, Wild Beasts released their first single 'Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants', and in 2007, Foals released their debut single 'Hummer'. What excited me about all three of these bands was their ability to make every note count in writing very well thought out songs. It felt like a new breed of more intelligent music. A trend Alt-J are continuing in 2012.

At the time of the aforementioned releases, each were seen as very 'indie', but the intricate level of musicianship was undeniable. All three bands went on to release incredibly mature sounding second albums and both The Maccabees and Wild Beasts have had great success with their critically acclaimed third records. All have grown beautifully and created more accessible music while maintaining the high level of musicianship that got them noticed in the first place. I will always be a massive fan of these type of bands.

Enter Alt-J. Having already released two AA singles ('Bloodflood'/'Tessellate' and 'Matilda'/'Fitzpleasure'), along with current single 'Breezeblocks', all of which I've been a huge fan of, I'd be lying if i said their debut album 'An Awesome Wave' wasn't one of the most exciting prospects in music this year for me. Hailing from Leeds, things have been steadily growing for the band and they've created a beautifully haunting and incredibly hypnotic sound that is, much to my delight, very mature and full of musical intricacies much like the aforementioned.

The vibe of the whole record, if not band, can be perfectly summed up in album opener 'Intro'. Starting with just a piano, the track blossoms with the introduction of jittery beats and guitars full of reverb. When it comes time for Joe Newman's lead vocal to come in, its harmony is an eerie, low end auto-tuned voice that almost blends in with the deep bass line, before the instruments take over again and the track builds into a huge atmospheric ensemble.

We are then instantly shown the bands lyric writing talent and vocal harmonic ability in acapella track 'Ripe And Ruin'. Its minimalism forces the listener to really focus on the story, ending on the genius line, "Like all good food, the balance of life is in the ripe and ruin". Indeed, I could talk about every track on the album in detail, but whether it's the dream like feel of 'Tessellate', 'Matilda' with its delicate and beautiful sound, 'Fitzpleasure' with its dark, brooding bass line, or the more pop sounding 'Dissolve Me', you really need to hear this album in its entirety for yourself.

The album feels like it spans a number of genres, but as a whole, it feels remarkably complete and well thought out. It is full of intricate instrumentation, stunning vocal harmonies and perfectly penned lyrics resulting in a mature, yet very exciting record. As a body of work, from start to finish, the album is an absolute delight to listen to and is definitely one of my albums of the year so far.


'An Awesome Wave' is out today, and available to purchase from Stream the album in full at for a limited time.

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