Artist of the Week
Not since Prince has an artist sported a symbol so unironically as promising British up-and-comers Alt-J, otherwise known as ∆ (type alt + j into a Mac computer and find out why). Say what you will about their unusual name, but these guys have been on a serious tear lately. Ever since the release of their debut album, An Awesome Wave, Alt-J enjoyed an astronomical rise to success as if they were riding, at the risk of sounding redundant, a pretty awesome wave. It certainly goes without saying that taking home the coveted British Mercury Prize in 2012 helped their chances, yet how exactly does an indie band rise to such success in a music environment flooded with competition?
Alt-J’s UK imprint, Infectious Records, has an impressive roster, but hardly holds the marketing power of a major label to back them. Thankfully, it appears that quality music and a unique approach prevail. And let’s not forget their sound—raucous, electrifying, and delicate, all at the same time. It still takes a little more than that to truly blur the line between “indie cred” and mass appeal, however, but Alt-J have the antidote once again.
The answer lies in their live show. Today’s musical climate largely depends on touring to build a fanbase, and the ability to translate an artist’s studio sound to the stage is crucial. Alt-J made it easy on themselves by writing music that’s built specifically for summer music festivals. Anthemic tracks like “Fitzpleasure” and “Dissolve Me” are best heard radiating across a field of dancing 20-somethings. I defy you to listen to “Breezeblocks” in the car with the windows down without feeling the uncontrollable urge to belt out the final reprise of “please don’t go / I’ll eat you whole / I love you so.” Better yet, imagine it sung in unison by thousands of festival-goers.
The true power and lasting appeal of Alt-J’s music is in their exercise of catharsis, using building hip-hop beats that sound as if they could collapse on themselves at any moment, coupled with cavernous drops to release tension. Add all of that to the presence of a roaring crowd, and it’s really something to behold. Just ask the attendees of this year’s Bonnaroo or Governor’s Ball music festivals.
Alt-J continues their debut album’s victory lap across the US later this summer. Do yourself a favor and see them in an intimate venue while you still can, because at this rate, they’ll be headlining arenas in no time.
Article by Nicolas White