I don’t want to over-hype this album, but…it is, quite frankly, awesome.
‘An Awesome Wave’ is not only brilliantly titled, but it contains 14 genuinely breath-taking and original tracks. ‘Matilda’, ‘Breezeblocks’, and ‘Tessellate’ are the first three singles from the album, and have been rightly received by widespread critical acclaim, but the rest of the album is no less worthwhile.
Intriguing riffs, melodies and cadences accompany triumphant crescendos, sudden silences and the impressive vocal harmonies which fill the atmospheric album, making for almost as distinctive a debut as that of the XX. When interviewed, the band said: “It’s about doing your own thing and making music that you want to hear,” and this seems to have been what inspired their unique sound.
‘An Awesome Wave’ is a cohesive and well thought-out mish-mash of genres, with folk, dub, and hip-hop influences pervading the album. Glimpses of inspiration from Pink Floyd to Coldplay appear sporadically throughout – but it sounds nothing like either of these. This is why pinning them to the ‘folk-step’ genre, as Fearne Cotton and NME types have done, is so flawed. They do not conform to one genre and thus they have put together an album that is hypnotic at times, anthemic at others. Extraordinary always.
Lyrics like “Triangles are my favourite shape”, described – possibly accurately – by one YouTube user as “the most hipster lyric ever”, are typical, but sung in Joe’s distinctive falsetto they make for genuinely spectacular tracks. And hipster-ness aside, there is an oddly touching poignancy to many of the songs, created not least through the use of unconventional sexual imagery. Lines like “She may contain the urge to run away but hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks” and “Til morning comes, let’s tessellate,” led NME described them as “oddball geeks” but this is what sets them apart from other bands.
They aren’t worlds apart from their peers like Django Django and Zulu Winter, but alt-J (∆) certainly lead the pack. See them at Bestival, Reading, Leeds, and Tramlines this summer, but they’re off to Europe at the end of the month and they are in no rush to release their next album, so catch them quickly. They will be flying up the billings, and no doubt headlining in the next two years.
The intention for this review was to avoid sycophancy and over-hyping. But perhaps it’s a little late now.
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