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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2012
Alt-J (triangle/increment on a Mac) could be categorized as indie, but that doesn't seem fair. The experimental sound that this quartet created for "An Awesome Wave" is smooth and satisfying but not dominating to ward off the normal crowd. Expansive instrumentation and distinctive vocals will envelop you. From the opening track with use of piano and synthesizer you may try to find familiarity, but the following short a cappella intermission will throw that directly out the window.

Vocal harmonies can be heard throughout the album to accompany some brilliant, albeit simple, guitar work. Sometimes we can feel that intricate instrumentation is needed to build a unique sound, but some artists have shown us differently and this is a prime example. However, I do not want to downplay the ingenious work on this album. You will be stunned.

"An Awesome Wave" is easily one of the best albums of the year. What really sucked me in was the way everything flowed incredibly well from track to track--each so different and refreshing that you won't find yourself skipping back and forth to your favorites the first few times through.
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57 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2012
This album is stunningly, hauntingly beautiful. I find myself in the somewhat unfamiliar position of being *that* gal... The one so excited about some band you never heard of.

Give this album a listen. I haven't been so affected by an album in years. Who cares what the genre is... Does it even have one? The harmonic complexities tug at my soul, and each song is catchy, makes you want to move, but is also haunting and bittersweet.

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2013
The first time I heard Alt-J I wasn't so sure. What initially pulled me back to them thought was the line "Triangles are my favorite shape" in the song Tessellate. Something about that just caught me, and made me realize that there was something going on here that I didn't know about. Well, after a couple weeks of finding myself again and again looking them up on Spotify for another taste I decided it was time to invest. After that it took no time at all before they had infiltrated my brain and taken over completely.

I don't always care so much about whether or not music manages to do something "new". I think "newness" is generally pretty over-rated actually, or at least the single minded pursuit of it. But something like this album...

It feels to me that in this case the incredibly unique sound wasn't the goal, but instead more of a bi-product of a group of people really digging down to the core of things, to their own core, and getting to that point where in order to stay true to yourself you can't help but revolutionize.

Music like this makes you look forward to the future while still reconnecting to the past. It brings people together. It does exactly what music is supposed to do. Good work.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2012
Rarely do I hear something that sounds so completely fresh and groovy at the same time. An Awesome Wave finds this English band synthesizing elements of art rock, jam band, and pop music in a way that I believe had yet to be done. This band isn't for everyone, for sure. But I think it will work for A LOT of people. I spend most of my free time making, listening to, and discovering new music and this album will definitely find a place in my top ten albums of 2012 list as well as my best albums of all time list.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2014
Today, it's rare to stumble across an album that works on so many levels at Alt-J's An Awesome Wave: musically, lyrically, and overall as an album.

Musically, the album is phenomenal. The group draws from a wide range of influences. Most interestingly, there is a definite electronic influence: the ambient noises and audible textures that are produced electronically for some groups are created acoustically by Alt-J's fantastic percussionist. Balanced with a broad range of acoustic and electronic instruments, the album's music shows a great range by the band's members.

Lyrically, it becomes apparent upon the first listen that the songwriter is well-read. He draws inspiration from anything from Where the Wild Things Are to Leon the Professional, doing so while keeping the lyrics relateable and interesting. Vocally, the lyrics are performed with an often-syncopated rhythm that itself becomes part of the music. On top of that, the lead singer has a vocal quality that is difficult to describe and sings with a huge range.

I find this album particularly interesting, however, because of the arrangement of the tracks. In a world of digital downloads and the option to buy any track separately, I find it encouraging that Alt-J went through the trouble to be sure that the album holds together so well as an album rather than a collection of songs. Overall, the album loosely tells the story of a relationship from the perspective of one person through the themes of it's tracks; it opens with a story about a girl with OCD praying for a good life, the high points of the relationship with Tessellate and Breezeblocks, troubled times with Something Good, Dissolve Me and Matilda, loss with Ms, anger with Fitzpleasure and Bloodflood, death (in this interpretation it would be of the relationship) with Taro, and Handmade, a song about scars and not being to move on.

Five stars. I can't wait for the next album.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2012
I knew I had to get this album! Alt-J was introduced to me by a great Seattle radio station called KEXP. When "Taro" came across the airwaves, I was all too ready for something new. For the most part I was impressed with the dynamic lyricism and unusual vocals--I just couldn't get them out of my head! Alt-J literally transformed a gory war-time story into a tragic, poignant love story :) If you take the trouble to seek out the context of some of their other songs, you'll see their penchant for putting that unique spin on things, and I LOVE IT! The only thing I wish I'd done before purchasing the album was to also purchase a great set of headphones so I could listen to every detail of their multi-layered musicality. So, listen to this album for the first time with a good sound system, or you might miss something amazing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2013
You thought Breezeblocks was the only song that was good? Buy this album. I rarely buy music thanks to spoitfy, but I had to buy this to support these guys. I recently saw them at Bonnaroo and was blown away. They are a true true talent that needs all the respect in the world. I recommend buying this and putting it on repeat.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
Just the drums and synths alone make this album worth it, everything else is a happy bonus, from the odd vocals to the noodly guitar lines you are instantly drawn in and kept busy for the length if the album.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2014
An Awesome Wave is an innovative and fantastic album. However, the vinyl version is horrible. If you care at all about quality recordings, do not buy this vinyl version. It is overly compressed, flat, and noisy. At times, the speed doesn't even feel right. This is one of the worst pieces of vinyl I own.

Again, this is a great album, but DO NOT BUY THE VINYL!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 10, 2013
Alt-J had been around for nearly five years before releasing this album, working at first out of their dorm rooms and student halls. Supposedly it was the need to keep the noise to a minimum in these places that helped evolve this band's unique sound, forcing them to avoid using hard drums, loud guitars, or bass.

It's difficult to pin-point their sound, which I think is often the trademark of really good bands, even though a lot of labels do sometimes come to mind. There's a sort of folk sensibility, but it's a lot more complex (and relies more on electro-synth backdrops) than that music usually is (or does). I've heard them referred to as "art rock," but I have no idea what that is. I think the label was made up just to refer to bands who actually try to, y'know, be artistic, which is certainly the case here, although I don't know anymore what "rock" is supposed to be. This might qualify, since there is occasionally a serious pulse behind the songs, but it's never antagonistic or forced. The band has a trip-hop/pop feel in a few songs, but it never feels cheap or chewy.

Lyrically, the songs are pretty profound and tend to be as inscrutable as any verses you might find in a Shins album. Regardless if the sound is upbeat or down, there's always an energy driving it that really hooks the ear, making almost every song seem like a contrast of itself, like the sweet and sour chicken of the music world. I, uh, I like sweet and sour chicken. If you don't, pick some other contrast you do like and go with that. Like salted hot chocolate or something.

Anyway, the point is, it's an infectious and slippery album. It plays with the mind and heart while refusing to sit still long enough to be pigeonholed. Considering that nowadays cookie-cutter pop/rock is pretty much everywhere ad nauseum, it's a treat to find something so indecipherably beautiful still out there to be enjoyed.
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