TGTF will be on a break from 23 November to 5 December. Our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

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Video of the Moment #2744: alt-J

 
By on Thursday, 16th November 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

alt-J have become known equally for their off-kilter music as well as their unusual videos. For the promo video for ‘Pleader’, the English band take on a saga from a Welsh mining town. The song appears at the end of ‘Relaxer’, their current album that was released this past summer. Read Carrie’s review of it through here. (In case you need a musical primer on the sacrifices Welsh miners and their families made in the 20th century, I recommend Public Service Broadcasting‘s ‘Every Valley’, which was released in February.) Watch the promo for ‘Pleader’ below. ‘Relaxer’ from alt-J is available now from Infectious Music / Atlantic Records. For more on alt-J here on TGTF, use this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2401: alt-J

 
By on Friday, 14th July 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Following on from the release of their new LP ‘Relaxer’, alt-J have just premiered a new video for the album’s next single. Oddly enough, they’ve chosen the most bizarre song on the album, ‘Deadcrush’, which they describe as being inspired by a conversation about hypothetically dating deceased historical figures, including English queen Anne Boleyn, author Sylvia Plath and photographer Lee Miller.

The visual treatment for ‘Deadcrush’ was directed by Young Replicant, who also provided his services for alt-J’s preceding video for ‘3WW’ (which we featured back in April as our Video of the Moment #2344). The choreography in the ‘Deadcrush’ video, courtesy of Darcy Wallace, is as uncomfortably weird as the song itself. Watch it for yourself just below. TGTF’s recent review of ‘Relaxer’ can be found right here. Our complete archived coverage of alt-J is back through here.

 

Album Review: alt-J – Relaxer

 
By on Wednesday, 12th July 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

alt-J relaxer photoTrue to its title, the new album ‘Relaxer’ from alt-rock trio alt-J is a deliberate attempt to revitalize the band’s safely-established sound by injecting a larger sense of space. It was hard to know which direction alt-J might take after their Mercury-nominated debut ‘An Awesome Wave’ and their Grammy-nominated sophomore outing ‘This Is All Yours’. Certainly the pressure was on them to make another “successful” album, whether that success is measured in terms of critical accolades or commercial sales, and the idea of relaxing, of taking a bit of breathing room, was surely welcome.

In terms of radio play, alt-J have already achieved a degree of success here in America with album single ‘In Cold Blood’. It’s a catchy track despite its ominous undertones, and one sure to have turned a more than a few intrigued ears in the direction of ‘Relaxer’. But as it turns out, the sharp, tightly-composed arrangement of ‘In Cold Blood’ isn’t particularly indicative of the album as a whole.

Opening track ‘3WW’ is a better representation, which might be why it was chosen to be first in the tracklisting. Its langourous instrumental intro immediately sets a slower, more relaxed vibe, and when the vocals finally do enter, they are divided among three voices: keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, frontman Joe Newman and guest vocalist Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice. The off-kilter ballad, as described by the band, “traces the adventures of a wayward lad on England’s northeast coast, culminating in the whispering of three worn words.” It’s a brilliant beginning, and very promising indeed when paired with ‘In Cold Blood’ as the next track in the sequence.

After that point, however, ‘Relaxer’ begins to stray from its expected path. alt-J’s cover of The Animals’ classic ‘House of the Rising Sun’ is interesting at first, especially with the minor but meaningful lyrical alterations they’ve made. But their consciously expansive musical arrangement ultimately stretches too thin, and the dramatic momentum of previous versions is lost in Newman’s somberly-intoned vocals.

‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ attempts to revives some lost energy with a dose of the ’60s psychedelia that alt-J removed from ‘House of the Rising Sun’. The song is weirdly hypnotic and sensual, but on closer examination, its lyrics (“I’m fucking loose, you’re gorgeous, I don’t care / come closer, baby, slap me like that snare”) left me feeling a little dirty, and their devolution to the lines “fuck you, I’ll do what I want to do” seems either gratuitous or just plain lazy.

The largely unintelligible lyrics of ‘Deadcrush’ are underpinned with a deep, enticing bass groove that somehow reflects back to the rhythm of ‘In Cold Blood’, and its subject matter, literally romantic crushes on dead women, is equally bizarre once you can decipher what Newman is singing. Conversely, recent single ‘Adeline’ is a mournful and misty atmospheric ballad, cloaked in acoustic strings and gauzy backing vocals, that builds to a sonically dramatic finish.

Penultimate track ‘Last Year’, featuring guest vocalist Marika Hackman, brings alt-J’s folk roots back into focus ahead of the album’s grand finale, ‘Pleader’. With the soaring voices of the Ely Cathedral choir serving as a backdrop, alt-J close ‘Relaxer’ on a dynamically and texturally expansive note, taking glorious inspiration from classic literary and musical sources of the past.

alt-J have pulled out all the stops for ‘Relaxer’, in an attempt to step out of their comfort zone and broaden their sonic horizons. The album never takes a decisive direction, and it lacks the immediate accessibility of alt-J’s earlier work, but it’s rather a brave collection of work nonetheless. If nothing else, ‘Relaxer’ is an eclectic display of the sonic possibilities at alt-J’s disposal, both for the present and for the future.

6.5/10

Alt-J’s third album ‘Relaxer’ is out now on Infectious Music / Atlantic. A list of the band’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Facebook.  TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of alt-J, dating back to 2012, is collected here.

 

Video of the Moment #2344: alt-J

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

alt-J are gearing up to release their third album this summer. ‘RELAXER’, which follows their #1 charting 2014 sophomore effort ‘This is All Yours’, will drop on the 2nd of June. I have to admit I haven’t really paid attention to what they’ve been doing this year, having missed the songs that preceded this, but ‘3WW’ now has its own music video. If you’re wondering who the female voice on the track is, it’s none other than Wolf Alice frontman Ellie Rowsell, whose contributions to this song are alternately flirty (albeit in an eerie way) and tender. The cinematic nature of a Mexican Romeo and Juliet in the promo takes the song from into more emotionally evocative territory. Watch it below. For more on TGTF on alt-J, go here.

 

Live Gig Video: alt-J perform ‘Left Hand Free’ at the Main Stage at Reading 2015 (Friday)

 
By on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

My my, how the mighty alt-J have risen. If you don’t believe me, check out their Main Stage appearance at Reading last Friday, performing the incredibly catchy ‘Left Hand Free’, from their sophomore album ‘This is All Yours’ released in autumn 2014, embedded below.

To watch the promo video for ‘Left Hand Free’ that debuted last summer, head here. Want more on alt-J on TGTF? Right this way.

If you live in the UK, until the 29th of September you have access to over 40 full sets of action from Reading/Leeds 2015 through the BBC’s Web site for the festival weekend. For full details, go here. If you like outside the UK, you’ll be able to enjoy selected highlights from the weekend on BBC’s YouTube channel, including coverage from the BBC Introducing stage.

 

Live Gig Video: Gengahr share video of life on the road during their winter 2015 tour with alt-J

 
By on Monday, 24th August 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

Last week, Gengahr revealed this tour video from this past winter, when they went out on tour with alt-J. It’s backed by their song ‘Trampoline’, which figures on their debut album ‘A Dream Outside’, released back in June on Transgressive Records. (Read my review of their debut here.)

You can catch Gengahr on their headline tour in October in the UK that begins in Brighton on the 6th of October; all the dates are listed here. For more on Gengahr on TGTF, head this way.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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