An Awesome Wave
The genre of alternative music has been witness to many varying faces and leaders throughout the ages. The ever evolving, expanding and intriguing artistic medium is constantly moving into new norms and standards that seem to come as fast as they go, leaving timeless classics as well as mass amounts of mediocre recordings buried it its seamlessly infinite depths. Some of the most influential artists of the most recent decade have spawned from alternative music (Arcade Fire and Brand New to name a couple) and while you may or may not like it, it’s almost impossible to deny the genre’s ever growing popularity among mass audiences. With Alt-J’s debut, An Awesome Wave, the genre might very well have a new innovative ringleader, one which blends tripped out, studio inspired psychedelics with above-par musicianship and songwriting, topped off with chilled out, melodic atmosphere and above all catchy and creative vocals.
There are many aspects of An Awesome Wave to embrace and enjoy. Alt-J clearly possesses an arcane ability to mix many varying styles of music as well as interesting parallels into their often heterogeneous yet never overbearing mix. The tracks presented range from reggae inspired, radio-friendly, light-hearted summer anthems such as “Breezeblocks” and “Matilda” to the mind-bending studio savvy of “Fitzpleasure.” For the most part, the songs are carried by group front man Joe Newman’s expressive and peculiar vocal delivery. While Newman’s vocal tone lacks originality it more than makes up for it in his approach which relies on impressive melodies and harmonies that make other comparing vocalists sound mediocre and uninspired by comparison.
The rhythmic portion of the record is headed by Thom Green who seldom fails to make the oftentimes simplistic rhythms entertaining if not all that appealing. Percussion based instruments and trip-hop infused samples generally take precedence over natural drum grooves, which are present if a little sparse. One of the more captivating aspects of An Awesome Wave is that it’s often hard to decipher from what is manipulated studio instrumentation and what is real, tangible instrumentation barren of fancy production tricks and while both are present throughout, the former more often than not takes precedence. It’d be a shame if I failed to mention the overall production of this record. To put it simply, it sounds good. Real good. Every little nook and cranny of An Awesome Wave swims through aural wavelengths with effortless ease presenting euphoric senses of bliss, which fail to cease throughout the records thirteen tracks. An awesome wave indeed.
While the album as a whole is cohesive and entertaining, it barely pushes outside of its comfort zone, giving the overall impression of the record something minute, yet ever so present to be desired. While songs like the aforementioned “Breezeblocks” keeps things fresh and original, the album can get a bit banal and predictable especially through the record’s middle stretch. Regardless, debut offerings are rarely more original and exciting than what Alt-J have achieved with their freshman offering An Awesome Wave. While Alt-J’s debut failed to gain much of a broad range of recognition among its initial release, the band has gradually been accumulating momentum and a widening fan-base thanks to worldwide festival appearances (the immensely popular Bonnaroo for instance) as well as ever-increasing radio airtime. Alt-J’s sound is as fresh as it is cool all while retaining a comfortable sense of familiarity whilst keeping things interesting during the albums brief forty-one minutes of run time. Only post studio offerings will be enough to tell for certain but if An Awesome Wave is of any indication of what’s to come from this talented group, the future for them as well as the entire genre of Alternative music remains as bright as it’s been in some time.
Tracklist for An Awesome Wave:
2. (The Ripe & Ruin)
6. Something Good
7. Dissolve Me