Alt-J’s Sophomore Album, “This is All Yours”


In the follow-up to their 2012 debut album “An Awesome Wave,” British alternative group alt-J (∆) have returned with “This Is All Yours.” The record centers around three tracks “Arrival in Nara,” “Nara” and “Leaving Nara” all of which are about Nara, Japan. While the lyrics are indecipherable enough to make any remnant of a narrative, together they have connections in tonality with heavy reverb and an overall mellow sound.

As a whole, the album relies more on ambience, rather than cohesiveness, as seen on their previous release. This tactic may be a sign of the group wanting to retain more integrity than we had seen before, however their penchant for pentatonics and cave-like sound structures actually works against them in this record. We have seen them release singles that were both infectious and experimental though “This Is All Yours” delivers more the latter than the former. Even with this mindset of trying to move beyond pop tunes, the group places themselves within these narrow parameters because of their previous success that makes for a far less interesting record.

At the very least, it’s commendable that the band decided to reduce the interludes down to one on this album, but by making the main tracks longer, it feels as though they were written as much shorter songs and stretched to fit time limits. The only true standout track from the album is “Left Hand Free” fraught with enough blues-rock riffs and vocal stylizations to upset Jack White. Released as the second single to the album, the first track released was “Hunger of the Pine.” Featuring layers of soft synthesizers and even a Miley Cyrus vocal sample from “4×4.” The song was the first to be recorded without founding member and bass player Gwil Sainsbury after his departure from the group earlier this year.

So far, the only other single released from the album is “Every Other Freckle.” It is distinct with a more electronica feel that the band played more heavily for their debut album. Within the record, the band makes a few allusions to “An Awesome Wave” not only in terms of sound, but also in lyricism with “Bloodflood Pt. II” which made reference to the lyrical motifs lead singer Joe Newman repeated often.

As graduates of Leeds University, the band (aside from Gus Unger-Hamilton) studied art, and brought about this aspect in their music, most notably on the track “Warm Foothills” which play on the element of lyrics as a collage with snippets and bits of words sung by Newman, multiple female vocalists and even Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. With a minimalist chorus, the song creates this composition that has some sonic value, but not much substance carries it. As a collective piece, “This Is All Yours” sees the band fall into a trap like MGMT and other similar artists. On the record, the band gets more experimental, but is subject to the routine and rush of recording/writing an album while on the road.