Alt-J – RELAXER
Alt-J have knuckled down. Stripped of intros, interludes and all that posturing, this album feels – as its low-res computer graphical cover and robotically capitalised title RELAXER suggest – like an executable file, to be played in moments of emotional escape. Its compact eight tracks, running at a mere 40 minutes, offer controlled segments of medidative horizons and wry alt-pop – sequenced like binary code.
This feeling of deliberation counters one of This Is All Yours’ main weaknesses: aimlessness. Even this record’s sore thumb – the facetious saloon-rock clanger Hit Me Like That Snare (with its closing refrain channelling Mr. De la Rocha: 'Fuck you, I’ll do what I wanna do') – feels considered when bookended by such realised sincerity. Each song has a lot going on; the opening track alone (3WW) is focused in its patient, countryside storytelling.
And though hardly trying to out-Radiohead Radiohead, RELAXER does sport cinematics that’d make Greenwood raise an eyebrow. Pleader’s dusky Spanish guitar could score European arthouse, while the transportive Adeline and their cover of House of the Rising Sun both play like Hans Zimmer tearjerkers.
For a record so brief, its ability to evoke scale – while still carrying the distinctive sound of the band that surprised us all with An Awesome Wave back in 2012 – is testament to Alt-J’s demonstrable talents as artists.
Listen to: 3WW, In Cold Blood, Adeline