When Alt-J stormed the scene this summer it seemed impossible to avoid the four alternatively hip British guys. The album began gathering heat in its birthplace of the U.K., but didn’t hit the States until a few months after it’s May street date. As this momentum grew slowly but surely, An Awesome Wave became the essential album in everyone’s iTunes, everywhere.
Initially, it seemed like the boys would be just another hip, indie, well-dressed band that would come and go in the ears of any fan in touch with indie music. Any hints of this speculation were quickly dispelled, though. Within a few weeks Alt-J was hip on American college campuses; people were insisting their friends play contagiously catchy songs like “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure” at parties and friends’ houses.
This transition has shocked many people; the album’s seemingly immediate entrance into our lives and the insistence and determination with which it proved itself remains impressive. The low rating that the album received on Pitchfork- a number that some thought would be detrimental to the album’s success- is merely a memory left in the distant past. An Awesome Wave has proved itself exponentially.
The band received the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize in November for their outstanding debut album. In the crux of this hype the band was covered by grammy award winning British band, Mumford and Sons, with their song “Tesselate“- an act of admiration that added even further to the band’s popularity and fame.
But what was so absolutely fantastic about Alt-J‘s debut album that seemed to hook almost every new listener? The “overstuffed and messy” criticism that Pitchfork pinned on the Alt-J album is hardly justifiable. Similarly, the “overworked” sounds that the reviewer claims the album maintains due to its “five years” of work, are far from correct. These criticisms are spun the wrong way. Instead Alt-J proves that their five years of creating this album has culminated in a perfectly symmetrical piece of work.
An Awesome Wave is a piece of music that stands on its own as strong and unique, ecstatic while serene, loud but soft; the album is a series of dualities. This is precisely what makes Alt-J‘s debut album so strong and contagious; its ability to maintain so many fantastic qualities at once is far from “overstuffed and messy”, but is instead multi-talented and impressive.