By Charles Cook
Alt-J’s second album sounds as if were made in laboratory. Each song is an experiment: a chemical reaction of brooding guitars, chiming vocals, lutes, flutes, horns, sitars, scuzzy electric beats and even Miley Cyrus samples. Some of these experiments produce fabulous results. Some fizzle, some pop, but some flop. Does it hold together as an album? Of course not. Is it great? Yes.
At its height, All This Is Yours is a darker, more intense and intelligent iteration of Alt-J’s hugely successful debut, 2012’s An Awesome Wave. The opening song, simply titled “Intro”, sets the tone with a minimalistic arrangement of haunting vocals that slowly give way to a thundering tribal drum pattern. Following songs “Arrival in Nara” and “Nara” continue in the same vein. “Hunger of The Pine” and “The Gospel of John Hurt” prove to be central masterpieces, brooding and building with incredible success. Those who missed the not-so-subtle meaning behind “Tessellate” from the first album won’t be left in the dark as to the meaning of its sophomore equivalent; “Every Other Freckle”. This track is a sleaze filled romp with bass and synth lines so suggestive it would make you blush if it came on the radio with your parents in earshot. And that’s without Joe Newman crooning his desire to “turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet”.
If there was one negative comment to be made, it’s that stylistically the record is all over the place. This is particularly evident in the mid-section. “Left Hand Free” is a happy go lucky southern style rock-and-roller that would sound more at home on a Black Keys record, whilst “Garden of England” is a minute long recording of a medieval re-enactment day. Newman’s unique voice puts Alt-J’s distinctive stamp on each song, but the genre hopping is quickly tiresome. In a recent interview with Stereogum, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton insisted that they “weren’t taking the piss”, but it almost does seem that with All This Is Yours Alt-J are playing some private joke on us.
The album has plenty to offer. Ultimately, All This Is Yours is a superb and mature follow up to An Awesome Wave that won’t disappoint fans.