Alt-J
An Awesome Wave


2.0
poor

Review

by derho USER (31 Reviews)
December 11th, 2012 | 43 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Remember to practice safe Tessellation

Imagine with me a nightmare world in which the occult hegemons of the music industry gather in a smoke-filled room in order to formulate a way by which the good-vibes placidity and substanceless jamitudes of the Dave Matthews Band could be marketed successfully to a skeptically hip indie audience. First, sign the band to a self-described indie label (in reality a Warner subsidiary). Get them to cut a record so it can win a celebrated prize that rewards those on the cutting edge of musical development. Make sure everybody in the press calls their music art. It’s a simple formula; so crazy it could work. I tell you, friends, this nightmare is real. And it has a name. Or, at least it has a Mac command.

Far from art or avant-garde, ∆’s “An Awesome Wave” is almost entirely edgeless. It comes in with a breath, goes out with a sigh, and, aside from a few elephant-trunk synthesizers sprinkled here and there, remains entirely tepid throughout. At best, this is experimental elevator music, floating by unobtrusively and failing to connect in any kind of emotional way. Unimaginative lyrics are fed through the gurgling filter of Joe Newman’s schizophrenic vocal chords in the hopes that we’ll attribute the meaninglessness to his scattered mumblings. No dice. “Breezeblocks” is basically an empty recitation of a ‘totally cool’ children’s story. Sorry guys, the movie came out a few years ago. Try and again next time.

This record seems structured to drag, and doesn't even really get started for a good four minutes, chugging painstakingly through a doze-inducing “Intro”, followed, god knows why, by an “Interlude” (the first of three). From this point on, the sort-of-interesting production techniques of yesteryear are applied with mild success to overwhelmingly dull pop songs. When arrangements jump from section to section without signal phrases, it feels less the result of purposeful jaggedness than uninformed songwriting amateurism. Drum lines that have the potential to be exciting quickly become either subdued or annoying. There’s a strange dichotomy in some places between warmed-up reverberations and sharp, metallic lo-fi production that points to a lack of true artistic direction.

In many ways, “An Awesome Wave” takes legitimate trends in forward-thinking music and addresses them incorrectly. Taking queues from African and World music doesn’t mean designing a song primed and ready for inclusion on the soundtrack to Disney’s The Jungle Book 3 (“Dissolve Me”). Nor does it mean mashing up Bollywood dance-numbers with Beach House-y dream pop (“Taro”). Does that sound like it would work? It doesn’t.

Is there a chance ∆ will head back to the drawing board, rethink their strategy, and end up producing something with a bit more humanity and natural quirk? Yes. Do I think it’s going it happen? Probably not. If I end up being wrong, that’s alright. I’ll be happy for them. But for now, “An Awesome Wave” is absolutely worth avoiding, at least to keep that damn “Something Good” out of your head.

4.5/10



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2012


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really well-written review, but I feel like you view this album as pretentious just because of its style. You make that claim, but don't really seem to back it up anywhere else.

Digging: Thou - Heathen

derho
December 11th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Thanks. You make a good point. I was planning on fleshing that out significantly, talking about them shoving their self-made image down our throats: "we're totally into shapes and geometry and stuff" as if they were cool by design.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2012


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mhm. You have to be careful when you make bold statements like those, because without proper backing you'll come across as just trying to rile people up. Especially because about every indie band ever is labeled 'pretentious,' often without any backing at all.

derho
December 11th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Fair point. I think I ended up not backing it up because I had already backed it up in my head, so it just made sense to me.

Toondude10
December 11th 2012


4435 Comments


Not a bad review, but I think you need more evidence in your arguement.

Digging: Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal

Calc
December 11th 2012


12363 Comments


if you ever gave me feedback omaha id be so happy.

good review though you seem to be doing a lot of them lately derho.

Digging: Maxwell August Croy and Sean Mccann - I

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2012


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lol this review. Disagree completely.

(It's well-written though, just a bit too "rant-y").

PuddlesPuddles
December 11th 2012


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

"Unimaginative lyrics are fed through the gurgling filter of Joe Newman’s schizophrenic vocal chords in the hopes that we’ll attribute the meaninglessness to his scattered mumblings. No dice."

Sums up my overall feeling of this alb

Cygnatti
December 11th 2012


22288 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

cool band

I can certainly understand some of your qualms, but I'm still not quite sure how a band is "pretentious"

not sure how bad production points to a lack of direction, but we can at least agree that he's sometimes all over the place. :/

Digging: Jerry Lee Lewis - Live at the Star Club, Hamburg

derho
December 11th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

thanks for all the feedback guys.

Cygnatti
December 11th 2012


22288 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

your welcome, pos!

zxlkho
December 11th 2012


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album rules

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2012


31611 Comments


I think there's some great writing here, but it gets lost in amongst all the cynicism and unwarranted shots at the band. Obviously everyone has their opinions, but some of them don't belong in a review

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

Spluger
December 11th 2012


1188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

While I disagree, not to bad of a review. Have a pos.

derho
December 11th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I appreciate all this guys. I made an edit to the beginning of paragraph 3 that hopefully makes this review seem a little less spiteful. No more claims of pretension.

SeaAnemone
December 11th 2012


20946 Comments


Great review. I was going to criticize (like others did apparently) that it seemed like you had a little of a personal vendetta against the band with the "pretension" claims, but you usually back up said claims.
At times they seem a little threadbare (see: "Does that sound like it would work? It doesn’t." ... why?).
Admittedly many of my negative reviews for seemingly-good albums, those liked by the majority, boiled down to many of the same attacks, so it'd be a bit hypocritical of me to call you out haha...
Either way, good on you for taking on a rather well-regarded album and providing a differing perspective with decent writing to boot, definite pos.

Digging: Viet Cong - Viet Cong

SeaAnemone
December 11th 2012


20946 Comments


Figured it's worth mentioning that I'm a fan of a bunch of reviews of yours I haven't commented on as well (i.e. Liars)... but that Japandroids score makes me cringe haha. I totally understand the perspective but can't stomach it still haha.

derho
December 11th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

wow I'm glad I posted this review I'm getting so much helpful advice. And yeah I understand everybody seems to think celebration rock was one of the best albums of the year. I like it, but there's just no big spark for me.

SeaAnemone
December 11th 2012


20946 Comments


You'll generally get much more reaction/advice from a review with an unconventional opinion than with another 4 review for an album like this.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2012


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

In other words, be edgy with all your scores and everyone will help you out!!!!



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