alt-j – This Is All Yours

by Amanda Hoover (Journalism), published October 3rd 2014

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

148081When you look at the facts, alt-J’s sophomore album should be a slump. We’ve all seen it before – an artist’s first recording comes out of nowhere, working its way from the depths of the internet to mainstream radio stations and gigs at festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Add in bagging an award and a band member jumping ship, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for high expectations, crippling pressure and an average-at-best follow-up album.

Instead, This is All Yours, alt-J’s second album, evades the curse and returns with the now three-piece’s signature textures and hooks, mingling eerie digital folk with pop samples and dipping into radio-friendly riffs. Like An Awesome Wave, the album opens with a mostly instrumental intro that previews the mystical highs and lows to come.

“Every Other Freckle”, one of the album’s singles, is one of those highs. It echoes the obsessive and ambiguous nature of the band’s breakout hit “Breezeblocks” with lyrics like, “I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag, turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet,” guaranteed to intrigue and probably disgust listeners on some level. The band doesn’t seem  worried about the latter, though, and understand that their appeal lies in that mix of strange to deviant, throwing in “devour me, if you really think that you can stomach me” almost as an afterthought.

From there alt-J flips takes a sharp left turn with “Left Hand Free,” which doesn’t sound much like anything off of An Awesome Wave or even the rest of This is All Yours, but it’s not supposed to. The track started off as a joke between band members before it went on to please their American record label as the perfect radio single. To match that apathy alt-J paired it with a video that looks more like a Bud Light commercial than the usual intense and violent visuals paired to their music. “Left Hand Free” is catchy and likely to draw in new fans, but it’s hardly one of the album’s more memorable tracks. Instead, songs like the more innovative “Hunger of the Pine” will make This Is All Yours  memorable. Listeners might recognize the slowed “I’m the female rebel” refrain  echoing throughout from Miley Cyrus’s “4×4.” The combination of Cyrus and alt-J is jarring in theory, but in practice the two fit together seamlessly.

Awareness of their career-making debut comes out in  “Bloodflood pt. II,” a sequel to the twelfth track on An Awesome Wave. It repeats the “C-O-double-M-O-N” refrain, but centers around “a flood of blood to the heart” from love rather than fear. Whether they’re just trying to create a déjà vu experience for listeners or bring things full circle, on This Is All Yours the trio proves that they aren’t going to leave their debut album completely in the past, but are also unafraid to take risks for musical growth.

Key Tracks: “Bloodflood pt. II,” “Every Other Freckle,” “Hunger of the Pine”

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