Alt-J, "An Awesome Wave" (Canvasback)
Alt-J defies genres. Often categorized as trip-hop by those who want to pigeonhole, the band prefers not to be labeled at all.
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The indie quartet's debut album, "An Awesome Wave," is out now in the U.S. after having delighted listeners in its native England and earned the band a place on the prestigious Mercury Prize shortlist.
"Wave" is structured with precision and is meant to be listened to as a unit. The album opens with "Intro," a somewhat melancholic combination of piano and guitar that links perfectly to "Interlude I," an a cappella song that introduces you to Joe Newman's vocals. There are three interludes and each is strong enough to exist as an individual song.
But the band really shines on songs like "Tessellate," a track whose spine is formed by an interesting drum concoction, and "Breezeblocks," which introduces yet more vocal range and melancholia.
However, not all songs are somber and tug at the heartstrings. "Dissolve Me" is an alternative lullaby -- dreamy, sleepy and more optimistic with beautifully whimsical lyrics -- and "Matilda" is positively a love song.
"Wave" is innovative and holds interest throughout, and Alt-J is a band to watch.
Check this out: "Fitzpleasure," the band's first single for the U.S. release, again combines a cappella singing with a pounding, almost hip-hop bass line -- so, go on, try to categorize them!