Album of the Month for July is alt-J with An Awesome Wave

Well, if you watched the Olympic opening ceremony last night, one thing you will know – if you didn’t already – is that the UK has produced more exciting, innovative, thrilling popular music than everywhere else in the world put together over the last 50 years. Yes, I know that’s a bold claim but really – are you going to argue with the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Bolan, Bowie, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Queen, Elton, the Pistols, Clash, Jam, Police, Oasis, the Smiths, the Cure, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Muse, Soul II Soul, Dizzie, Prodigy, Underworld, M.IA., Madness, Specials, Radioheads, Arctic Monkeys, Mumfords, Laura Marling, Mike Oldfield, Blur, Adele .... and so it goes on.

And this year we’re seeing some very exciting new young British bands releasing excellent debuts albums. We reviewed the Fixers and Django Django in previous months here, and this time we have the enigmatically named alt-J with An Awesome Wave.

alt-J is the keyboard command on a Mac for a triangle apparently. They like triangles. And geometric shapes – the current single from the album is Tesselate.

The video here was “directed by Alex Southam, and is a twist on Italian Renaissance painter Raphael's 'The School of Athens', set in a modern day gangster's paradise”. You might rightly deduce from this that alt-J are not particularly down with the kids. They met at University in Leeds and now hang out in Cambridge, and their songs draw on other art forms - M∆tilda – spelt with an Alt-J – references Luc Besson's film Léon apparently and is "fuelled by the shared demise of both the protagonist and antagonist".

What matters is the music though – and it is a weird yet incredibly effective mix of folk (even monk-type plainsong at times), dubstep and trip-hop rhythms, Radiohead electronica, slightly mannered indie style vocals, and strong tunes. It shouldn’t work, but for me, it really does. It is amazingly mature and accomplished for a first album – there’s no sense of anything being half-formed, or incomplete. They’re also getting an amazing reception live – the biggest ever audience for the stage they were playing on at Latitude the other week.

I love it. Right up there in my albums of the year to date list and a definite 9/10. Here’s another track – one of the strangest but best on the album!

 

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