an awesome wave

Relaxer: Album Review

Yesterday alt-J released Relaxer, their 3rd studio album. Today I’m giving you my take on it.

Relaxer is shorter than the first two alt-J albums. It only consists of 8 songs and 39 minutes of play time making it alt-J’s shortest album thus far. However what it lacks in size, it makes up for in content. It’s a perfect combination of the alt-J music you know and love.

I’ve always found alt-J’s sound to be so original. At least none of the other bands I listen to sound similar to them. Some of their earlier music had an Arabic/Middle Eastern sound to it. “3WW” and “Deadcrush” have a bit of that sound, but each song’s sound goes beyond that too. “3WW” has this Egyptian-like sound, while “Deadcrush” incorporates an electronic/deep house type sound. “Hit Me Like That Snare” has an indie rock feel and “In Cold Blood” has the sound of a classic alt-J hit similar to “Breezeblocks”.  “Adeline” and “Last Year” are both soft and mellow. They’re comparable to “Warm Foothills” and “Pusher” from This Is All Yours or “Matilda” from An Awesome Wave. Finally, the intros of “Pleader” and “House of the Rising Sun” remind me of something I’d hear from a movie score.

Relaxer is the new album you’ve been waiting to hear from alt-J. It’s got everything you’d want from the indie rock band and it’s the perfect addition to your alt-J album collection. I will say though, alt-J isn’t for everyone. Their sound is unique no matter how you look at it so if you’re going to listen to them for the first time with this album, don’t expect your typical indie rock. It’s a bit beyond that. If you love alt-J though, you’ll definitely love or at least like this new album.

Triangles are my favorite shape: alt-J Concert Review

On Friday, I was able to attend a show on alt-J’s Fall 2015 North American Tour. I saw alt-J for the first time at Coachella this past year. I wrote about them leading up to the yearly event in the southern California desert so I won’t re-hash about the group or how they got their name from a Mac keyboard command. Instead, I’ll just let you know that my second time seeing them was just as good, if not better than the first.

After seeing them at Coachella (it was one of my top 3 favorite sets) and seeing how cheap tickets were for their date in Philadelphia last Friday, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again. I bought tickets for myself and my two favorite kids as a gift for their graduation this past June. However, about a month and a half before the show, my friend informed me that the date of the show coincided with the Pope’s visit to the Philly with 2 million people expected to be on hand for the event. How awesome, right? Now on top of dealing with traffic and people in a normally busy city on a Friday we also had to handle extra of both because of the Papal visit. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially expected, and we had a phenomenal day in the city leading up to the show.

The show was at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. The venue’s location is right on the Delaware River. As we were walking to the pier, it reminded me of being at the beach to see a concert. The fact that sand surrounded the platform which housed an area for the general admission crowd to stand added to that effect. Add in that it was a cool, breezy September day/night and I felt like I was on a beach on the west coast rather than in a city on the east coast. It was ideal for me. We didn’t have any food at the venue as our stomachs were full from the Shake Shack burgers and fries we had earlier that evening, but I did make a purchase of a Blackberry Lemonade flavored Mike’s Hard. It was way too expensive at $15, but for alcohol at shows/concerts, that’s the price you pay.

San Fermin opened for the boys from Leeds, UK. They’re an American pop band with classical roots formed by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yale University graduate who studied composition during his time there. Having released their sophomore album this past April, the eight piece ensemble played songs like “Parasites”, “Sonsick”, and “Jackrabbit” to get the crowd going before the headliners took the stage. I found their music catchy. They seemed like a band I would listen to on occasion but not fall entirely in love with. By the end of the set, I was just itching for alt-J to play.

alt-J opened with the “Intro” from their latest album, This Is All Yours, (how appropriate) and went straight into “Every Other Freckle” much to the delight of concert attendees. As a headliner on their own tour versus an act at an acclaimed music festival, their set was predictably longer. It featured songs from both full length albums like “Something Good”, “Dissolve Me”, “Matilda”, “Tessellate”, and “Fitzpleasure” from their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave and “Left Hand Free”, “The Gospel of John Hurt”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara” from This Is All Yours. They even played the bonus track Bill Withers cover “Lovely Day”. Perhaps one of the coolest transitions in their set was when they performed “Bloodflood” followed by “Bloodflood Pt. 2”. There weren’t many breaks between songs to chat with the crowd, which I liked. To be honest, I do like when bands talk in between songs, but I can also appreciate what alt-J did Friday night. There’s more time for music and there’s nothing wrong with that. The lighting and screens with digital imagery used in their set really captured the essence of their songs as well. This might be overlooked at a show when you’re focused on hearing your favorite songs, but it shouldn’t be. It gave their great performance a little something extra.

After “ending” their set with “Fitzpleasure”, which we all knew wasn’t really the end, the band came back out to perform a four song encore that started with “Hunger on the Pine”, followed by “Warm Foothills” and “Taro”, and closed with “Breezeblocks”. It was a perfect encore. The show left fans feeling fulfilled including me and my friends. It reaffirmed my choice to see them again and was great day/night all around. If you’re a fan, they’re worth seeing live, but even if triangles aren’t your favorite shape, they’re still worth it.

(Since this is the end of my post and I usually recommend some songs, but I’ve written about alt-J before and included song recommendations, I’ll just say to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this post and link you to my alt-J Coachella Band Preview for more info.)