This Is All Yours: alt-J’s Greatest and Worst Album yet?

The music from 2014 doesn’t seem to make much sense for popular rock outfits of that year, with many groups deciding to make quieter, more introspective albums than ever. Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, The Black Keys Turn Blue, and alt-J’s sophomore album This Is All Yours all fit into this category. However, unlike The Black Keys, who have made a change for the better on their newest record, and Coldplay, who have released one of the slowest and least-impressive albums in their discography, alt-J takes the middle ground, making both amazing tracks and complete flops on their newest LP. The end result: a record that, taken as a whole, is average but is composed of the band’s best and worst songs of their career yet.

Funnily enough, the one element that shot An Awesome Wave into critical acclaim and success, its amazing list of singles, is completely missing from their second album. Instead of “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate,” This Is All Yours gives us “Hunger of the Pines,” an extremely sleepy song that samples Miley Cyrus’ vocals from her song “4X4,” and “Left Hand Free,” the loudest track easily on this album that only sounds like a murmur when compared to their last record. The lack of singles is the first major flaw that alt-J brings to the table, and shows the one-dimensionality of these songs, with each sounding pretty dull and boring overall, the only possible exceptions being “Left Hand Free” and “Every Other Freckle.”

The two songs just mentioned and “Hunger of the Pine” are the best songs from this album. The first two are great indie rock tracks that have catchy hooks and great instrumentation. Joe Newman’s vocals are strong especially on “Left Hand Free” and showcase the great rock sound the band makes when it wants to. Some of the lyrics here are also memorable and add to the distinctiveness of the song, such as the recurring line “Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” on “Every Other Freckle.” “Hunger of the Pine” is a bit slower, but it is one of the more experimental songs of the album with a steady electronic beat forming the foundation for the rest of the keyboard and drum instrumentation to enter in the mix. It is distinctly unique from the other tracks on this record because it is such a raw, emotionally evoking and groundbreaking song for the young music group, one of the greatest successes on this album.

The weak links of this album are “Arrival in Nara,” “Choice Kingdom,” and “The Gospel of John Hurt” because, besides lacking any of the band’s usual enthusiasm and playfulness, these songs showcase the flatness and dullness of the entire album. “Choice Kingdom” is the guiltiest of them all, with soft vocal harmonies and guitar arpeggios that is only good to make someone fall asleep. “Arrival in Nara” is the same type of monster as “Choice Kingdom” with the only exception being that this song is right after the intro, and slows down the little bit of momentum that the intro track was trying to establish. “The Gospel of John Hurt” is a bit better because it builds up just a bit by the latter half of the song, but is still unimpressive musically, with little of the unique and powerful characteristics that made alt-J songs in the past so great and catchy. Though these tracks best exemplify the monotonous tone of the album, songs like “Nara” and the “Garden of England” instrumentals do not help at all, only bringing down an album that had so much potential musically for the indie rock group. If these songs were removed from the track listing and alt-J turned This Is All Yours into a 5-6 track EP showcasing only the best songs from the album, the end result would be a much more polished, interesting, and quintessentially indie rock sound that is worthy of being called an alt-J production.

Sadly, this album falls a bit short overall from their stellar debut, but there are some diamonds in the rough. “Every Other Freckle,” “Left Hand Free,” “Hunger of the Pine,” and “Warm Foothills” are a nice addition to the group’s catalog, and showcase the variety of sounds they can make with their unique song-writing abilities. The acoustic guitar driven, simplistic yet interesting style of “Warm Foothills” and the incorporated Miley Cyrus lyrics in the hypnotic “Hunger of the Pine” are great examples of the band’s true capabilities. Though a very sleepy album, it is still a good listen that can hold fans over until their next album comes out. And even though this LP does not come close to An Awesome Wave musically, it still does a very good job of showcasing all of the elements and styles that alt-J uses in their music, making this album by no means a failure for a young group slowly learning how to be the best band they can be.

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