Review: Alt-J – This Is All Yours

Ellie Dobbs 26 September 2014

Two years after winning the Mercury prize for their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave and minus a bassist, Leeds band Alt-J makes a triumphant comeback with their genre defying This is All Yours, injecting electro-indie excitement into an otherwise disappointing year for album releases. The trio have shed their somewhat adolescent pop image for an eclectic mix of tribal harmonies, cooing falsetto, panpipes, and a Miley Cyrus R&B sample that bizarrely works. Alt-J seem to have emerged from the same experimental puberty from which Radiohead matured with the seminal album Kid A.

This Is All Yours revolves around a journey to ‘Nara’, a Japanese city which appears unremarkable until a cursory glance at Wikipedia informs us that you can occasionally see heavenly deer wandering tamely about the town.  Whatever the significance of Nara’s deer, Alt-J bring it back to nature in ethereal woodland themed ode ‘Hunger of the Pine’ and the pastoral midway breather 'Garden of Eden', a mash of pipes and birdsong that sounds a bit like Pink Floyd’s ‘Grantchester Meadows’.

This prelapsarian idyll is, however, quickly forgotten a track later in favour of the mocking ‘Choice Kingdom’, a falsetto sing along to Rule Britannia overlayed with jarring intergalactic noises and synths that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of those particularly edgy Doctor Who episodes.  Soporific ‘Bloodflood Pt.II’ and melancholic lullaby ‘Arrival in Nara’ provide moments of atmospheric calm, but Alt-J’s new outfit sounds their gritty best in the delicious ‘Every Other Freckle’  and the palatably southern fried Black Keys-eqsue ‘Left Hand Free’. Several minutes after the logical end of the album ‘Leaving Nara’, a decidedly sinister interpretation of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’ kicks in and gives the album a creepy, trippy conclusion – just to keep you on your toes.

Alt-J are no longer that band with the annoying Mac symbol name that won’t be photographed and have a thing for triangles. They’ve grown up. A mash up of style and genres interwoven with cryptic lyrics and sexual overtones, This Is All Yours presents a complex, experimental work which brashly challenges: ‘Devour me/ If you really think that you can stomach me’. We can only listen on enchanted, and wonder just what they’ll give us next.