Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave pushes the boundaries of audacious art-rock, the year’s first outright stunner
When I first heard Alt-J’s genre-slaughtering blend of dubstep, alternative pop and infectious art-rock, I didn’t believe my ears. I searched for these songs in as many iterations as possible, reaching for what made them so damned explosive. Clearly there’s a reason the album An Awesome Wave is a front-runner for England’s prestigious Mercury Prize — these college students turned alt-music saviors don’t care about the lines they’re about to obliterate. They’re simply out to make music that makes you feel something.
The album plays best as a whole, letting the art-rock through-line electrify the circuit. Still, for such a high-concept piece of experimentation, An Awesome Wave brims full of staggeringly infectious melodies. “Fitzpleasure” on its own serves as their ultimate example, almost Jethro Tull-ish in its ability to morph through countless genres and mini-songs in the course of a four minute pop jam. It also benefits from the dirtiest lyric ever to sneak its way into an otherwise radio-worthy hook. This is Dark Side of the Moon meets Hot Chip, and the mad juxtapositions stack the deck. You cannot listen to this and not want to move! It’s an unimpeachable imperative.
Music fans willing to subvert their expectations and delve into an album which is as much pop as artful, daring genre exploration will find much to savor about Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. By decimating the line between art-rock and the mainstream, the band creates new horizons for every listener who confesses to give a shit about music as a creative art-form. Google around every corner, layers upon layers make this the year’s most surprising outright stunner.
The Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” are:
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
And the winner is … who the fuck is Esperanza Spaulding?
Okay, seriously. I know the Grammys don’t mean jack these days, and NARAS wouldn’t be itself if they didn’t screw up at least one big award. But I think Bob Lefsetz summed it up with one line: “This is what eviscerates the credibility of NARAS. Is it a mainstream clusterfuck or an insider circle jerk?”
You change the rules to make sure Drake can still be nominated. You add in Florence + The Machine and Mumford & Sons — and Mumford has actually sold more than 750,000 copies of their debut, despite supposedly not having amarketable sound.
Then you nominate “Leave it to Bieber” to keep the teen set interested, and the best they can think of is to give the award to a jazz bassist and singer who has sold maybe 5,000 copies of her albums if she’s lucky. Oh, wait, it’s a Herbie Hancock sized conspiracy to help her have next week’s #1 album when thousands of drooling TV viewing morons rush out to buy what the Grammys’ told them insiders really are listening to.
Puhleeeze … It’s Jethro Tull in the metal category all over again. I’ll let Homer Simpson lead us out: