Review of Alt J – An Awesome Wave

If you like songs about cigarettes and alcohol then Alt-J probably aren’t the band for you. The alternative indie pop four-piece from Cambridge are almost anti-Oasis in their musical approach, with songs about war photographers and foreign cinema. Their genre hopping music has garnered much acclaim of late, climaxing with what is considered the “holy grail” of the alternative music industry – a Mercury prize.

For those of you who have only heard of Alt-J post-Mercury win, you will be surprised to know that they have had a massive cult following since the release of their debut album, An Awesome Wave, earlier this year. The album reached the Top 20 in the UK and the lads sold out venues across Europe and America despite little media attention.

An Awesome Wave sews multiple music genres together; folk, rock bass, catchy pop, hip-hop beats, trip-hop atmosphere, indie-rock quirkiness, and electronic heavy synth riffs. One song, Taro, is about the death of 20th-century war photographers Robert Capa (who stepped on a mine in Indo-China) and Gerda Taro (who was run over by a tank during the Spanish civil war.) Guitarist and vocalist Joe Newman was so intrigued by the fact that both war photographers, who were engaged, died carrying out their passion that he wrote a song about them. You won’t find music like this amongst the landfill rubbish in today’s charts.

Although the Mercury Prize has been a kiss of death for some musical careers, Gomez and Speech Debelle to name two, Alt-J are here to stay. This album is brilliant. Listen to it now.

Adam Sweetman

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