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An Awesome Wave

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Editors’ Notes

Named after the keystroke for making a delta (i.e., triangle) sign on a Mac by holding down the Alt and J keys, the Leeds, England–based trio Alt-J is inspired by the symbol’s mathematical definition of change. This makes sense upon hearing the band’s handsome 2012 debut album, An Awesome Wave. Its take on postmodern pop mines the best elements from folk-rock, garage rock, dub-pop, indie rock, vintage cinema scores, and a cappella harmony before constructing layered, angular arrangements with sonic ore. Following a dramatic piano part, the opening “Intro” weaves heavily reverberated baritone guitar leads (à la Ennio Morricone) over and around looped beats and random vocal samples that all come together to play like the sons of The Beta Band. These contrast the pointed, geometric arrangements of “Tessellate” with Joe Newman’s flowing, throaty vocals and backing harmonies, which hover above the music like those of Fleet Foxes. Then, in “Breezeblocks”—a mechanically grooving standout in which a toy piano provides the lead—he inflects like Devendra Banhart imitating Jason Mraz, with overt affectation. "Hand Made” closes with folky minimalism.

Customer Reviews

Awesome Wave

Album of the year, fact.

If only!

If Fleet Foxes and Bombay Bicycle Club met and had children, they could aspire to have created this...

Deserves the recognition

It's always exciting to find a brilliant new band and, if you're like me and not particularly cool or edgy, it's nice when you find them just a little bit before your mates do. This is one of those rare times for me but I'm really pleased to see them in the top ten on iTunes because they really deserve it.

This is a tightly produced, mature and complex album but manages to pack that in without being inaccessible or heavy. There's a sense of humour too that shines through on tracks like Interlude 1, a cute little vocal track with sharp harmonies. The tracks work as an album and you quickly find you've heard the whole thing and want to listen again.

Fans of Radiohead will enjoy these guys - not because they sound anything like Radiohead, though they do a bit, but because of the intelligence and charm that they carry off with such ease for so new a band. Great fun, clever and seemingly effortless. Highly recommended.


Formed: 2008 in Leeds, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

English indie rockers Alt-J, named for the delta symbol that appears when pressing "Alt" and "J" on a Mac keyboard, first formed in 2008 under the moniker FILMS. The quartet members, all of whom met at Leeds University, spent two years rehearsing before inking a deal with Infectious Records in 2011. Their signature blend of layered, folk-inflected dub-pop and soaring alternative rock was first heard on the 2012 singles "Matilda" and "Fitzpleasure" with the group's full-length studio debut, An Awesome...
Full bio
An Awesome Wave, alt-J
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Customer Ratings