Alt-J have made a name for themselves since the release of their debut album An Awesome Wave in 2012 as a band who aren’t afraid to try anything new in their music, and it usually works. Their latest offering, Relaxer, features eight songs that transcend multiple genres in what is possibly their most complex record to date.
The album begins with ‘3WW’, a song that starts unassumingly but builds up to something dramatic and exciting, although it’s simple riff is almost ever-present. It even features a guest verse from Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, whose haunting vocals give the track an ethereal quality. ‘In Cold Blood’ follows, a fast-paced affair that includes frontman Joe Newman singing in binary. It’s rousing and loud, sure to be a favourite during their live performances.
My personal favourite on the album is ‘Deadcrush’, which has heavy bass throughout and describes the band members’ crushes on historical woman, which would probably raise eyebrows if this was any other band than Alt-J. One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs they have done must be ‘Adeline’, a song from the perspective of a Tasmanian Devil. It is quiet yet exciting and melancholy, forcing the listener to devote their attention towards it.
While it is certainly a good step in their progression as a band, Relaxer lacks truly magnificent songs in my opinion; the singalong classics such as ‘Breezeblocks’ and the mournful masterpieces like ‘Hunger of the Pine’ that peppered their previous albums fail to appear in their true form on the latest record, and at times such as during ‘Pleader’ the appeal of good music is lost in favour of the avant garde. However, this is clearly the work of a band that is utterly unafraid to experiment and try new sounds, and there are certainly some very good songs on the album. It is confident and classy, and the main improvement to it would surely be for it to be longer to enable Alt-J’s creativity to flourish even further.