In 2012, the British indie-rock sensation alt-J stepped almost instantly into the spotlight with their first and critically acclaimed album, “An Awesome Wave.” Last week, the band released their highly anticipated sophomore album, “This is All Yours.” Though still filled with moody synthesizer hooks characteristic of the band’s style, the new record marks a point of musical growth for the young Leeds-based trio.
“This is All Yours,” structured similarly to “An Awesome Wave,” is intended, perhaps, to be a conceptual sequel. Both albums begin with an “Intro,” have at least one instrumental interlude, contain a version of “Bloodflood” and consist of 14 tracks. With some exceptions, lead singer Joe Newman’s crooning voice floats over gritty synth and punchy percussion, though the synthesizer is less overbearing. The new album, though still dark and catchy in true alt-J spirit, is slightly lighter than its first album; the nostalgic “Arrival in Nara,” the twangy, country-esque “Left Hand Free” and the blissful “Warm Foothills” are clear deviations in style for the band. While themes in “An Awesome Wave” include gang rape and the true story of a photographer’s tragic death, “This is All Yours” focuses more on relationships and love, with lyrics ranging from the sweet — “love is the warmest color” — to the erotic — “turn you inside out to lick you like a crisp packet.”
In an additional departure from “An Awesome Wave,” the new album evokes a distinctly pagan atmosphere, with churchlike vocal harmonies, haunting cries, acoustic folk instrumentals and lyrical references to nature. The songs “Arrival in Nara,” “Nara” and “Leaving Nara” are in reference to Nara, a city in Japan known for its wild deer. “Hunger of the Pine” contains a sample from Miley Cyrus’s “4×4,” with the pop star singing, “I’m a female rebel.”
With catchy hooks and a darkly electrifying sound, “This is All Yours” is, after a quick listen, quite similar to “An Awesome Wave.” Yet there is something a little more optimistic, joyful and mature about alt-J’s second record that sets it apart from the band’s first release two years ago. It is clear that the trio does not attempt to exceed its own natural style; each track is the raw representation of a unique emotion — be it desire, anger, contentment, nostalgia or hope — expressed in the band’s own terms.