Following the critically acclaimed and Mercury Prize winning album ‘An Awesome Wave’ would have been difficult for the most established bands in England, let alone a band who only released their first album in 2012. But that is exactly what Alt-J have done with ‘This is All Yours’. Formed in 2007 in Leeds, the trio have continued to go from strength to strength with their second album and have just started to break America. The early success of ‘This is All Yours’ demonstrates that their debut album wasn’t a one off, and that Alt-J are here for the long haul.
The first thing to note with the new album is that it is distinctively Alt-J. The motto seems to have been ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ and this is evident throughout the 14 song, 55 minute long record. They haven’t tried to be something they’re not, and in that sense it is unlikely that the album will attract many new fans around the world. But most of the 14 songs will certainly please most, if not all, of their current fans.
Some songs have begun to show a slightly different side to the band. The three tracks that were leaked before the album’s September release lead the way in this innovative new style the band has adopted. The likes of ‘Every Other Freckle’, ‘Hunger of the Pine’ and ‘Left Hand Free’ gave us insights into the slight change of direction following their debut, and those risks are undoubtedly paying off, as these songs prove to be just as intense as anything else on the album.
Further highlights include ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ and the cover of Bill Withers’ 1977 classic ‘Lovely Day’. The cover, in particular, is stunning, and demonstrates that band’s ability to take an established song and make it their own. It is likely to be one of the best album closers you will hear in a very long time.
The only negatives with the album are arguably that it neglects an element that has made Alt-J so successful these past two years. In contrast to their debut, a few of the songs can easily pass you by without leaving much of an impression. There are safe songs that won’t be released as singles and could arguably be labelled ‘fillers’. Songs like ‘Choice Kingdom’ are just as intense as the best songs on the album, but lack that little something which makes the likes of ‘Every Other Freckle’ stand out.
If Alt-J had continued with the innovation of ‘Hunger of the Pine’ and ‘Left Hand Free’, we would undoubtedly be listening to one of the best albums of the year so far, perhaps one of the best we will hear all year. Despite the band playing it safe with a couple of songs, ‘This is All Yours’ easily tops their debut ‘An Awesome Wave’ and leaves me in eager anticipation of the route they take on their (hopefully not too distant) third album.
By Aaron Brudney