Follow along with our weekly Artist Discovery Series for a look at some of the bands taking over Zilker Park in October. We’ve partnered with the music world’s best bloggers from Austin and beyond to bring you this series of artist profiles as a way to brush up on an old favorite or to get to know a buzz-worthy up-and-comer. This week’s feature comes from BrooklynVegan Austin‘s Andrew Sacher.
One of the most exciting success stories this year is UK four-piece Alt-J, who began getting buzz around their home country last year, but recently made their way over to our shores and the reaction has been great. Their debut album, An Awesome Wave, is already out in the UK. It comes out in the US on September 18 via Canvasback, but all you need is an internet connection to listen to it now.
In an era where much of the indie rock world spends their time putting twists on past musical trends, Alt-J stand out in that they really don’t sound like anyone. You can hear bits of Radiohead’s complexity and some of the Klaxons/Foals/Maccabees scene in their vocals, but it always comes off like an influence seeping in rather than imitation.
With over half a century of pop music, when someone argues a new band doesn’t sound like anyone else, it’s easy to assume they’re too experimental or just not that good. That isn’t the case with Alt-J. Each song on An Awesome Wave has its own personality and it’s an album where every song is as catchy as the singles.
Musically, the band members have the sort of technical proficiency that isn’t very cared about or necessary in indie rock, but they put their skills to good use rather than flaunting them aimlessly. And though frontman Joe Newman’s voice has its naysayers, everyone I’ve showed this album to becomes a fan just a few songs in.
Alt-J space out their album with an intro, three interludes, and a hidden bonus track to really give the standout moments room to breathe, and help them stand out even more. “Breezleblocks” has a repeated fill in the verses that will have you banging along at your desk, steering wheel, or wherever else you’re listening, and it ends in a singalong bridge which is a highlight of both the album and their shows.
The infectious verses of “Something Good” make that one an early shining moment, though more listens to the album will have you going back to the slower “Matilda.” Alt-J also provides dancier moments with the bass-heavy “Fitzpleasure” and the choruses of the hallucinogenic “Dissolve Me.”
I recently caught the band live in NYC at the relatively small Mercury Lounge and the place was packed with people singing along and dancing to every song. The band is great on stage and very appreciative of the crowd. They don’t miss a beat and aren’t a bore to watch either. It’s definitely worth making it out early for their 11:30 AM set at the Google Play stage at this year’s ACL Festival.