I feel like I’ve given English Indie Rock band, Alt-J, the fair one. Many of my friends are fans of them and hit me with the whole “You would love them!” thing. I’ve tried to like them and they have all the ingredients to be a band that I could rock with but there is just something missing. Their music doesn’t stick with me like Young The Giant’s or Hippo Campus’ or even Bon Iver’s does. In these instances where I’m barely a fan the foundation that I’m basing my judgement could be completely off base. In any case, they dropped RELAXER and ya know what, I’ll give them another chance.
This was an odd listen for me. The front half of the album is comprised of mid tempo tracks while the back half is a lot more…relaxed (I’m so sorry, please forgive me). “In Cold Blood” and “Hit Me Like That Snare” are songs that I would more readily associate with the band’s sound. Multiple sections, the illusion of noise, that weird voice with harmonies and pretty interesting drum parts. They aiight.
I do want to talk about the mid album Jamie XX knock off “Deadcrush” for a sec because I really like it even if it sticks out like a sore thumb. The gritty, beat-driven track is juxtaposed with weird but fitting high pitched vocals. It’s the perfect length and probably my favorite song. The other favorite is the last song, “Pleader.” Alt-J orchestrated a very nice track with guitars, strings and woodwinds that at times feel hymnal (is that a word?). The chosen harmonies of the many layers of vocals add to that spiritual feel. Add in some cool drums and “Pleader” closes out the album quite nicely. In form it is still very much an Alt-J song (See Above) but instead of quirky indie tropes it is lush and theatrical.
For the other half of the songs that I didn’t mention, go read a Bon Iver review but remove all the adoration and expectation; that’s what the rest of RELAXER provides. Aside from the aforementioned “Deadcrush” the rest of the songs are ambient and slowish, carried by vocals and ethereal instrumentals. I would assume the main voice is the lead vocals but I honestly don’t like his voice. Truthfully, a lot of the singing is layered and much more bearable but if it’s just him…I’d rather not. The woman’s voice who appears on a couple tracks is very nice which only makes my distaste for the other voice stronger. Other than that, there isn’t much interesting about these songs. You can be slow and soft but you better not be boring.
So wait, did I like half the album? Maybe. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself coming back to RELAXER let the songs grow on me. I could have missed the point; should I have taken the title of the album seriously? Maybe I just don’t get it? That’s too much thinking for something I only half enjoyed. I think I have come to the conclusion that Alt-J might not be for me…and you know, that’s okay.
“Deadcrush” might end up on a playlist though.
Check it out and form your own opinion: