It’s awfully difficult to pinpoint which musical mold Leeds, England quartet Alt-J fits into or even to find one that will do it any justice. Then again, given that the band uses a cryptic symbol (produced with the keyboard command alt-j) for its name, this seems expected, almost welcome. Thanks to the airy, blues-laden alt-rock melodies and frontman Joe Newman’s hypnotic drones, Alt-J’s infectious sound generated enormous buzz over the past year, even grabbing the 2012 British Mercury Prize for the band’s debut album, An Awesome Wave.
What makes the disc so exhilarating is—shockingly—that it’s simply a beautifully executed, well-rounded body of work. The LP has a particular ebb and flow from the moment you dive into the first song, “Intro,” which immediately moves into “Interlude 1,” an a cappella track with the band members’ voices stacked harmoniously.
But the real showstoppers come later: “Something Good,” a deceivingly whimsical, poignant number, lets the audience take a breather, while the gritty blues undertones of “Fitzpleasure” carry the album’s intensity across the finish line. As in the video for that track, Alt-J’s mysterious, somewhat morose persona has captivated a sizable international following, which no doubt explains the group’s sold-out shows at Webster Hall and Terminal 5. A quick journey to StubHub or Craigslist fatefully awaits.—Rachel J. Sonis
[Don't miss Floridian five-piece Hundred Waters, which makes digital folk—sounds counterintuitive, but it works in a bewitching, Bjorkian way.—ed.]