There’s not a lot of new things on Relaxer, the third album from alt-J. If anything, it feels a little more confident. You’ll have to observe keenly to figure that out, but there’s a feeling that their heads are raised a little higher and they’re not as, err, shy as it felt in the last two albums. In some places they’re pulling off tricks that don’t really, on paper, fit into their sound, the way This Is All Yours felt like an evolution towards warmer climes. And yet something seems off with this record. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it – but I get the sense they’re stuck in some sort of stasis. Yes, I said the last album was an evolution, but it’s like they went back to some awkward mix of warm and cold that don’t really gel in the grand scheme of things. They’re getting away with it, and yet they’re not getting away with it. It’s a weird record where you can’t quite decide whether it’s a good one or a confused one. I can’t decide. [NB] | 3/5
Yep, another list of my ten favorite songs of the year. And it’s just that: my ten favorites of the year. While there is an attempt to weave what is clearly a very personal list into some narrative defining the past year, it will most likely not work as much as it should. That said, there were a lot of interesting songs in the past twelve months, and some of my favorite acts went back with some new bits, too. People went quiet; people went retro; people went organic. So there’s that. I don’t know about you, but this is my year in music, sorted in alphabetical order, although you’re likely to guess what I’m biased towards… that’s just the whole nature of it, yes? We’ll be on a two-week holiday break, and we’ll be back with new entries on 5 January. Hopefully. And now, the list. [NB]
“Pastoral” is not an adjective I would use to describe an alt-J album, but that is the first thing that came to mind after first hearing This Is All Yours. The English band’s sophomore album still has – still is – subdued electronica and a hint of melody that makes things accessible. But the record feels more organic, more natural, and more playful, like the guys eased up on the tension (which is what An Awesome Wave felt like at times) and just got down and made music. The result is an interesting mix of typical alt-J (“Hunger of the Pine”) and warmer-than-usual alt-J (“Warm Foothills” and “Left Hand Free”) that manage to be more compelling than their previous work. No sophomore slump here. You might have assumed that the band could only do much to their sound, but then they outdo themselves. [NB] | 4/5
It’s that time of the year when every music related website, from the big ones to pretenders like this blog, roll out their yearend lists. But of course I’m getting on that thing too. But this blog was never always updated when it comes to music, partly because I never really aimed to cover every base – so no mention of Kendrick Lamar or Frank Ocean here, because I never really heard their stuff, and everybody else seems to love them. What I’m doing here is a list of my ten favorite tracks of the year, a highly subjective list that inevitably skews towards my preferences and favorite artists – but then again, this is more of a journal than a journalistic endeavor. Soak on this while the blog takes a two-week break (I’ll be back on
7 January 6 January 5 January 4 January). Now, the songs, in alphabetical order. And tell me of your top picks too!
“Tessellate” by alt-J | Say hello to alt-J, your Mercury Prize winners for this year. I was this close to picking up their CD in Singapore last week, but didn’t because I was buying too much already. I’ve since come to regret that decision, partly because I like to have Mercury Prize winners on my library (although I do have a bunch of Mercury nominees – this year, I have Jessie Ware and Lianne La Havas, for instance). Anyway, I like these guys. They’re just so chill. They’re trippy yet they’re intense. I’d love to call them trip-hop like Massive Attack is, but that doesn’t quite cut it. It just gets to you. Oh well. If I return to Singapore (and soon, I hope), I must pick them up. Unless someone else comes along, that is.