Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

I wish I were as cool as Alt-J, and it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. This four piece named after the keyboard command for the “delta” sign (∆) on a Mac have just released their debut album, An Awesome Wave, and people are falling in love. 

Alt- J describes their sound as “folk-step” yes it is actually what you think it means, a combination of folk and dub-step. And while it is hard it to get your head around- combining the two big contradicting music movements of right now and not create a massive mess- listen to An Awesome Wave, then you’ll get it. Somehow it all works. 

In the basement of house in Cambridgeshire, Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton created songs that include tight harmonies, synths, hip hop beats, and smart and sometimes pop culture influenced lyrics. Atl-J is not secretive about the meanings behind the songs, giving us a short explanation, which skews on the charmingly pretentious side.  “Fitzpleasure” is a retelling of a chapter from Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, which the reference with chanting the chapter’s name throughout the song and that isn’t the only literary reference- “Breezeblocks” is steeped in Where the Wild Things Are. These songs have an air of authenticity in that it doesn’t seem like Alt-J is trying to be something that it isn’t lyrical. Maybe it is that in “Dissolve Me”; Newman through a drug trip is corrupting a childhood bedtime ritual marking his departure to adulthood that makes me believe him. These songs are paired with guitars, drums, which switches out a cymbal or a saucepan, bass, keyboards, and synths, and can only be described as rich. 

An Awesome Wave is fun, and has created balance between something to read to and dance to, which is rare. It is an aggressive debut that will make everyone pay attention. Alt- J has created an album that is perfect companion for this summer that will transition into the rest of the year. 

Learn more about Alt-J and stream An Awesome Wave at:

-Jean Rebarchak