"This Is All Yours: glossy, odd album that teases and pleases"

Alt-J releases sophomore LP two years after winning Mercury Prize


Album: This Is All Yours

Artist: Alt-J

Label: Infectious

Release Date: Sept. 22

Grade: B-

Despite the challenge of crafting an album as singular as the group’s first one, Alt-J’s second LP is subtle and glossy – but Alt-J’s boundless, eccentric spirit remains the same.

Alt-J, with their second album This Is All Yours, submerges their music deeper than in An Awesome Wave. The band didn’t lose any of its strong experimental presence in the second LP – the trio (formerly quartet) is still just as expressive as ever.

The qualities that made An Awesome Wave so inimitable – overwhelmingly ambiguous, stuttering lyrics, flexible hooks and a personal brand of ultra-modern, bizarre sonic pop – are expounded upon in some way through This Is All Yours.

This Is All Yours, however, is forced to answer a question that An Awesome Wave was never forced to – the question of musical evolution.

The opening three tracks, “Intro,” “Arrival in Nara” and “Nara,” exemplify the glassy stillness in This Is All Yours. It is as if Alt-J attempts to frustrate and challenge their listeners, testing their patience.

The intro tracks create an exquisite and lush atmosphere, but do so without using any of the group’s trademark style. Oddly tranquil, the opening moments of the LP are downplayed and restrained.

Where many bands focus on an explosive ear-popping intro, Alt-J and producer Charlie Andrew chose to do the opposite.

After This Is All Yours’ glossy opening, the album finds its peak with “Hunger of the Pine,” “Warm Foothills” and “The Gospel of John Hurt.”

Miley Cyrus’ sample on “Hunger of the Pine” is perfection – her vocals meld with the song’s production flawlessly. The pitch of the track seems constantly on the cusp of audible eruption – the song simmers, but never burns.

The pace of “Hunger of the Pine” reflects that of the album as a whole. This Is All Yours is drawn out, and takes its time – both in expression and auditory pace – but always seems to radiate with an inner energy.

The album is propelled by the vocals, but also the sleek production of Charlie Andrew, the album’s producer. When those two elements mesh well, it is highlighted in the quality of the song.

On “Warm Foothills,” Newman and guest vocalist Marika Hackman coalesce to create one of the most emotionally charged songs of the album – also featuring vocals from Conor Oberst, Sivu and Lianne La Havas.

It is here that Alt-J shines its brightest.

Similar to how An Awesome Wave could disarm with an exceptional hook and chorus, “Warm Foothills” makes listeners pause with just an “Ohhh.”

This, arguably, is Alt-J’s finest quality – the ability to turn a song into something arresting with just a turn of a phrase or a chime of a bell.

“Do you know where you go?” Alt-J asks on “The Gospel of John Hurt.”

But, this is not a rhetorical question, for Alt-J at least.

It is clear This Is All Yours represents Alt-J’s changing artistic vision, as the album is opaque and calm where An Awesome Wave was bright and jumpy. It’s a shift that illustrates that Alt-J is not only capable of musical evolution, they embrace it – they know where to go.

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