Reader, we had the pleasure this past weekend of watching two of our favorite people in the world stand up in front of a bunch other people—many of whom also happened to be favorite people of ours—and tie the knot. Now, I know for a lot of people out there, the institution of marriage isn’t necessarily something you can put your full weight behind. And, as a child of divorce, I’d have to agree on that it’s not the best road for everyone. But, I have to tell you, when you’re standing in a room surrounded by palpable, tangible, nearly visible-to-the-naked eye love—not just of these two people standing at an alter of electric lights and Japanese paper balloons, but of everyone around them—it’s hard not to be believe in love. It’s hard not to want to immediately set out and find that person who makes you sing inside and makes every moment one million times better than it’d be without them. And it’s these kind of moments that make so very very happy I have and have had that with Katie for a very long time now.
All that’s largely beside the point of a blog post on music—though it is our nine-year anniversary this week—but this week’s band reminded me of a conversation from this past weekend that I had with a friend I see not nearly enough. Said friend was talking about this band in Richmond, Virginia that takes the idea of a cover band one step further, playing an entire album of any chosen artist from start-to-finish with each show. Now, that could be a pleasurable aural experience or a totally horrendous one depending on both the source material and the band doing the covering, but it raised a larger point—very few albums are great start-to-finish. Like, very few. Even if you prize listening to an album from beginning to end, there are usually one or two songs that you’d rather leave than take, when it comes down to it. Filler, let’s say.
But I have to say, Reader—the debut album, An Awesome Wave, from this week’s featured band, alt-J, has proved the exception to that rule.
The British band—also known in writing as ∆, the delta symbol you get on a Mac keyboard when holding down the ‘alt’ and ‘j’ keys (*cough*nerds*cough*cough*)—formed in 2007 when the members met at Leeds University. Somehow moving along the bizarre nexus of folk, hip hop, pop, electro, and…something else, alt-J plays glitchy, deliberately plodding, churning songs that work their way into your heart like the poor kid at recess with puppy dog eyes who never gets picked to be on anyone’s team…and then destroys all the other kids with a crazy awesome robot he built. Joe Newman’s odd vocals conjure up some kind of strange clockwork cyborg of a hybrid Tricky and Nick Drake, giving the band an immediate air of individuality. And drummer, Thom Green, with his syncopated beats and cymbal-less rhythms, provides an equally oddly enticing, quirky base for the band’s looping electronics, plunky piano lines, and intricate melodies. Kind of like what Hot Chip might sound like if they grew up in Appalachia and then went gangsta.
Words fail me, clearly. So give this week’s Song, “Fitzpleasure”, a listen and hear for yourself. Then I strongly encourage you to give the entire album a listen through below, start-to-finish. It really is beautiful, in the most weirdly cool of ways.
Also be sure to watch their video for “Tessellate”—which kind of plays like a hip hop commercial for Armani—and, if you’re in New York, sneak into their sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom this Wednesday as they kick off an American tour. Full tour dates can be found here. An Awesome Wave hits shelves stateside September 18, but you can pre-order the digital album via iTunes now.
Photos by Jory Cordy.
Note: Music posted to this site is kept online for a limited period of time out of fairness to the artists and, you know, our server. So if this is now an older post, the links may well be dead.