Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Alt-J spends a lot of time explaining their name. If you type alt and j on a Mac keyboard, you'll get a triangle. But what does that have to do with slick indie pop? Well nothing, but apparently it has a deeper meaning for the band. The symbol is used in math to mean slow change, which they decided best represents their new sound after dropping their original name, the Films. It's all conceptual nonsense for a band whose music is far from conceptual.

The album An Awesome Wave has been getting a lot of attention, having just won the prestigious Mercury Prize. Considering last year's winner was the extraordinary album Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, I was expecting something amazing. Instead of being blown away, I was just left confused. The band's sound is difficult to distinguish, which is often a good thing in music, since it shows creativity and innovation. But in this case, any innovation is out-shadowed by the fact that the songs are over-produced, and over-worked.

From the quirky, and theatrical song “Breezeblocks,” to “Tessellate” which is the band's failed attempt at trip-hop, to “Taro” which oddly enough includes bhangra music, one thing is certain – this album is all over the place. There are even a few snoozefest folk songs, that sound even more watered-down than anything by Fleet Foxes. To my surprise, the album includes a redeeming secret song called “Handmade,” which is reminiscent of early Devendra Banhart.

According to the band, their sound is called 'trip-folk.' Even though they made a valiant effort to pave the way for a new genre, Alt-J's debut album is too disjointed, making it impossible to understand what exactly trip-folk is.