Alt-J – Relaxer
They say all good things come in threes: the number of members in Alt-J, the sides of a triangle which pops up when you hit their name onto a keypad and now, their trio of albums. Standing at just eight songs long, a nod perhaps to Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, whom they’ve cited as inspiration, Relaxer could be the band’s masterpiece, split in half by wall-to-wall bangers and unfurling strings. Opener ‘3WW’ wades in coolly, the haunting vocals from Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell a signpost that Alt-J mean business from the offset.
The trio are at their best when bombastic production takes over and frontman Joe Newman is spitting nonsensical jargon. ‘In Cold Blood’ has the boldness of ‘Every Other Freckle’, backed by booming horns while ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ sees Newman at his most riled up, spitting “F**k you, I’ll do what I wanna do” over a barrage of thrashing drums, whirring synths and tormenting cow-bell. It’s ‘Deadcrush’, though, that weighs in heaviest for the three-piece. This trap belter is the knock-out blow on any still doubting their credibility to headline major festivals – the only thing missing is some snarling rap verses.
They’ve found a way to puff out their more delicate pieces too, with a posse of strings turning weary moments into emotional rollercoasters. ‘Adeline’ could have been penned as a thriller soundtrack and Marika Hackman’s vocals on ‘Last Year’ save it from descending into a set of sleepy diary entries. After the success of An Awesome Wave and This Is All Yours, this latest in the series needn’t have come so soon but the Leeds trio’s return may prove crucial to where they go from here.
See more of Josh’s reviews at www.thevlm.co.uk