After listening to Alt-J's much anticipated third album Relaxer, I will conclude that it is definitely unpredictable, yet somewhat familiar.
Like previous records, Relaxer tells a story, quickly establishing narratives, which are revisited as the album plays out. By continuing previously established themes, this album seamlessly follows their other albums; weaving everything together effortlessly.
I feel like I don't need to talk too extensively about "3WW" as it was the first single and there have been a lot of opinions on this one, but for most people, it was a grower. All I will say is that I loved it from the second I heard it and I knew we were in for a real treat with the new album. Gives me such an emoner- an emotional boner.
"In Cold Blood" is a real stomper of a track, with similar qualities of previous frontrunners "Left Hand Free" and "Breezeblocks". It's a classic Alt-J trick, having one of these catchy and confident opening tracks to reel in the masses and naturally, these are the three most played Alt-J songs on Spotify, currently.
When I saw that the third song on the album was titled "House of the Rising Sun" my ears pricked up. Naturally sceptical, but I will give them the credit they deserve because they make it work. You cannot necessarily classify the track as a cover, but more a reinterpretation, and when it is framed like this you cannot compare it to The Animals' version, but rather appreciate as a relic of its own; essentially, a hybrid. This track reminds me of what they did with Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" on This is All Yours, but obviously a little less courageous.
A little fun fact,"House of the Rising Sun" is actually a public domain song, obviously made popular by the Animals, but the original melody can be traced way back to a 17th-century folk song. The original track is basically free to use, edit and transform, which is basically what Alt-J did. In all fairness, it was bound to happen. And thinking about it, them doing this makes sense, as they are of the few artists who could potentially get away with such a bold move. It'll be interesting to see how this one goes down with fans.
When the next track on Relaxer, "Hit Me Like That Snare" kicks off, I feel like the introduction is a nod to Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". It's definitely a darker track, successfully showing off the versatility of the band. This old-school track shakes things up and keeps listeners on their toes, breaking up the album well. I could totally imagine this track straight out of a Tarantino film. This old schooler lays the groundwork well for the next track "Deadcrush".
"Deadcrush" is definitely has a lot of swagger, and I definitely favour this over all of the more upbeat tracks off of the album. I have been trying for a while to put my finger on who, stylistically, it reminds me of and I have concluded with the help of a friend it is almost a cross between Jack White and SBTRKT, with a little TV On The Radio thrown into the mix, but also at the same time, not at all! Regardless, it is an absolute banger.
There are a few tracks which are reminiscent of their previous albums, tracks such as "Adeline", which just hits the sweet spot, and "Last Year". If you are a sucker for the slow burners, then you will definitely appreciate "Adeline". "Last Year" is a subtle, simple and tender duet which is completed by vocalist Marika Hackman, whose voice you might recognise from "Warm Foothills".
The final track on the album - "Pleader" is the best kind of close you need to such a momentous album, equipped with the full orchestra and all. It is an anthem summing of the journey Alt-J have taken us on, not always an easy one, but ultimately one that leaves us with triumph and above all, hope. When an album is able to do that and make you feel that way, you know it´s a great one.
What I have always especially admired about Alt-J is that they actively challenge themselves as musicians. They have an established sound, and every track of theirs is stamped with this trademark, they use old tricks but yet you cannot necessarily pin down or predict what they will do next.
On the whole, the album is dynamic, vibrant and brave, exactly what I expected but could not have necessarily predicted their flawless execution. Good on ya fellas, maybe you can also help get Corbyn elected?