Listening to Alt-J is like lying down in the dark and seeing the stars for the first time. They represent the clutter of life excellently, juxtaposing dubstep rhythms with eerie folk vocals, playing jewellery box melodies alongside lyrics of darker tones. Together, they dismember the illusion that youth and innocence is one and the same thing. In all, it’s no surprise they’re favourites to win the Mercury Prize – proven simply by their latest single, ‘Something Good’.
The song opens with clean jolted drums, absorbing the haunting melodies coated with the pained message of the song: “something good tonight will make me forget about you for now”. It flits between this and the analogy of the matador throughout, carried on the back of the surreptitious bassline. The music acts as the many distractions we occupy ourselves with to momentarily forget our broken hearts. Eventually, the distractions we find become “memories” themselves, and we find ourselves in desperate search of more distraction. The cycle is only resolved at the death of the matador – when the crush dies. It henceforth brings light to the brutal truth that to soothe ourselves in a place where love and pain are synonymous, we must either get over it or get on it. Alt-J capture the essence of unrequited love perfectly.
‘Something Good’, is set for release October 1st. If you haven’t already, buy the album. Revel in their boundary-breaking alternative indie pop genius.
Amidst fears of rumoured age inadequacies, The Cluny, as always, welcomed its guests with warm ale-tainted arms. First to play were fellow Canadian band, Zeus. Unafraid of their audience, they both interacted and played with ease. A refreshing change to the common timid support act, they deserved to be there and we were going to enjoy it. Zeus generated a sound as mighty as their name would suggest, as indie-cool as their cardigans and unkempt facial hair. The swapping of instruments between songs posed as an interesting auditory contrast. Dan Mangan (plus band) opened with an instrumental cacophony of epic proportions, resembling an orchestra entering orbit. This melted into melody and thus the performance began. Throughout, I did not feel the usual boundary between us and them; interaction travelled either way with no hierarchy or divide. Despite the majority of the set sourcing back to latest record, Oh Fortune, the two most profound songs of the evening both came from second album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Ironically, the point at which the audience first came alive was during Robots. Strangers assembled to form the bridge of the song, beating any singing lesson I’ve ever had. For Basket the band left the stage, and I witnessed the most brutally vulnerable performance of the evening. In just four minutes a whole life was recounted, told powerfully with just voice and guitar. Once you strip away the layers, the core of the music becomes glaringly evident: heartfelt lyrics over simple melodies sang brilliantly. Dan Mangan is honesty without airs. He possesses such eloquence that ensures his music retains wisdom without the compromising curse of ostentation. He speaks a truth that resonated amongst everyone in that crowded room, and will continue to echo for years to come.
The first of the month is regularly viewed as a new start, a fresh beginning, a day for pocket money to be renewed – and with that comes the hopeful optimism that the future is bright with the promise of new adventures. On this day, the 1st of October 2011, Bombay Bicycle Club confirmed such notions. Having departed their days of jagged guitar circa I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, their acoustic coos of Flaws, BBC are embracing an upbeat revival encompassing a myriad of texture and sampling alike with A Different Kind of Fix.
Positioned comfortable at the barrier, slightly left of being square on in front of the boys, we waited for the first support band, Dog Is Dead. Harmonies were in abundance, and their subtly powerful ambience overwhelmed. The painful interval of heavy bass music between bands was then rectified with the presence of the next support, Dry the River. Opening with No Rest, a mighty build-up blew the audience away, heads nodding in approval all around. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much else of the set due to passing out standing up, thanks to the intense tropical heat that graced the country last week. No such lie shall pass from my lips as I say (or indeed, my fingers as they tap the keyboard) that the looming performance of Bombay Bicycle Club pulled me through semi-consciousness. Well, that and the frantic shaking from members of the audience and stewards, followed by personal space and a glass of water. It wasn’t my proudest moment. The basslines of yet more interval music rattled my oesophagus, which gradually faded into the piano sample of Shuffle and then the long-awaited appearance of the band themselves. The audience became manic with excitement, with deafening roars of anticipation for what the night would soon bring. The night continued in much the same way, ensuring the balance between old and new was intact. After playing their “last song” of the evening, the band retreated to the wings – while a piano was escorted onto stage. Jack Steadman then returned to show us at his finest and rawest; with fingers stroking keys, he reached the heartstrings of every living member in that audience, playing the beautiful Still and harmonising with the lovely coos of Lucy Rose. The evening concluded finely with an angsty What If, a song I was hoping for in particular. Despite the aforementioned heat, the evening was fantastic. Definitely recommend a BBC showing to anyone with an eye for decent music. Well done, lads!