If you’ve never listened to alt-J, it’s kind of difficult to explain what their music sounds like. Sure, it’s smooth. Sure, it’s slick. Sure, I don’t always know exactly what they’re saying but damn, does it sound sexy.
It’s raining. I arrive. I peel off my coat. Shake out my hair. The opener, The Acid, is putting on a positively psychedelic show. Then the lights go off. We are all waiting. A few moments pass before Miley Cyrus’s disembodied voice suddenly croons out to the silent crowd “I’m a female rebel,” and I am blissfully floating away to the opening notes of alt-J’s lead single “Hunger of the Pine” as the lights come on to reveal alt-J.
After the departure of bassist Gwil Sainsbury, I was a little skeptical about what alt-J’s sound would be like now that their founder’s out of the picture. But with the recent release of their second album, This is All Yours, alt-J continues to prove themselves to be a serious player on the scene with their smart balance between geeky electro-pop and straight up rock and roll.
alt-J cuts right to the chase. They don’t talk much. It’s all about the music tonight – one song after another, pumping up the crowd with songs from both This is All Yours (singles “Left Hand Free” – maybe the least alt-J-like song ever written – and “Every Other Freckle” are most notable) and their debut album An Awesome Wave, which won the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize in 2012. Their music may be seriously layered and intricate, but they slide into it with such grace and ease that it’s hard to believe that they’re playing with a brand new tour bassist.
Their vocal harmonies are ridiculous – I might even dare put them on a list of bands that have revolutionised vocal harmonies – it’s impossible to stand still. Everyone is swaying and dancing. As the beats of “Fitzpleasure” fade out, the entire crowd is screaming for more, and they conclude with 2012’s hit “Breezeblocks.” Joe Newman’s voice warbles out the lines, “Please don’t go, please don’t go, I love you so, I love you so,” and we’re all screaming it back to him because we don’t want to go, and alt-J, we love you so.
Bella Pham / Ketchup Enthusiast / KXSU Social Media Director