Sunday, 31 December 2017

Favourite Albums of 2017 #10 Alt-J - Relaxer

This is the second time this decade that Alt-J have appeared in the top 10 of my end of year album list. 2012’s An Awesome Wave was at number 8 and now in 2017 their third record, Relaxer, is in tenth. 

What’s so brilliant about Alt-J is that they show absolutely no sign of compromising, no sign of sounding like anyone else and no sign of writing an ‘obvious’ hit. Yet Alt-J are almost a contradiction of their own terms, for although Relaxer is even more weird, even more out there than their two previous releases they remain as popular as ever. 

Relaxer takes on medieval and pastoral folk, art-rock and loose jerky oddball tunes that reference the likes of Truman Capote and Shakespeare and throw in guest vocals by Ellie from Wolf Alice and Marika Hackman for good measure. It is one of those albums that you’ll either get or it will leave you scratching your head. (Pitchfork for example gave the record 4.5/10 and said: “Relaxer shows us what remains after the quirks are dialled back: some perfectly nice, perfectly blank lads who have no idea why they are standing in front of you and even less of an idea what to say.)” I think this is way off the mark, but that's taste and opinion for you - we're all different.

For me this is a brilliantly inventive piece of work created from a dizzying sonic palette that varies from the gentle hymnal to dirty sneering garage rock (relaxing as the title suggests it isn't - it will make you head whirl). It’s a difficult one to unravel, but if you spend some time with it (maybe Pitchfork didn't?), it brings reward and adds to the argument that Alt-J remain one of the UK’s more ambitious bands in terms of their ability to create music that sits outside the box.

Alt-J - In Cold Blood

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