Alt-J
Relaxer


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 4th, 2017 | 233 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A third straight masterpiece.

Every time I listen to ‘3WW’, I find myself drifting off into the same imaginary realm. I’m sitting by a large bonfire in the woods – an atmosphere alight with swirling shades of orange and purple – as sparks fly up towards the hazy evening sky and then lazily descend towards the earth, like tiny parachuting stars. The crackle of burning wood permeates the night air – this cool, crisp inhale of purity. It’s a feeling so vivid and proximate that it’s impossible not to become immersed. As an album, Relaxer has a handful of such moments; these touchable, palatable instances of emotional transportation. Even though it is far from a cohesive work, it’s a record tied together more by its appetite for imagination than by any single overarching aesthetic. Thus, Alt-J find themselves simultaneously in their most disparate and progressive state – and the results are as breathtaking as they are bold.

Relaxer hedges its bets on the strength of its unique and widely dispersed ideas. The record is not a smooth listen, jumping from acoustic folk ballad to psych-garage rocker to full-on hymnal, but every moment feels so rich and engaging that it thrives anyway despite appearing as a conglomeration of pieces taken from various puzzle sets. At its worst, ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ packs a Velvet Ungerground-esque punch only with a cringe worthy, juvenile outro. At its best – take your pick – Alt-J seems to hover above mortality on some otherworldly plane. ‘3WW’ is like camping out in another galaxy, ‘Adeline’ builds to a haunting, almost Zeppelin-like wail, the plodding progression and weighty subject matter of ‘Last Year’ will draw tears, and the closing ‘Pleader’ ascends to angelic vocal heights never before heard from Joe Newman. The band will also raise quite a few eyebrows with their take on ‘House of the Rising Sun’, combining the track’s legendary opening verse with original lyrics about the narrator’s alcoholic father – and pulling it all off magnificently. The good heavily outweighs the questionable on Relaxer, and with some jaw-dropping moments to boot, there’s little to complain about despite the album’s eclecticism and brevity.

What truly elevates Relaxer for me is that it finally feels like Alt-J is extending their creative reach. In an industry driven by consumerism, it is all too easy to find a formula that works and become complacent. Not everyone will enjoy the way that Relaxer bounces between ideas, but one thing that is self-evident from this record’s experimentation is that they are capable of executing just about any style they want to. Often it’s the subtlest of indicators – the horns that add a theatrical flair to ‘In Cold Blood’, the funky groove and falsetto in the chorus of ‘Deadcrush’ – that assure us whatever dream Alt-J ends up chasing, they’ll make it their own and endow it with traits to make it uniquely rewarding. Hell, it’s why they can get away with covering ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and only get some backlash. Relaxer is Alt-J’s identity crisis, but it has to be the best damn one I’ve ever heard.



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user ratings (230)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
jack CONTRIBUTOR (4)
this is not ours...

Tunaboy45 (3.5)
Frustrator....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Muppelope
June 4th 2017


1407 Comments


Good write-up. I'll have to check this out.

MeatSalad
June 4th 2017


17115 Comments


Was it intentional that this review and your This Is All Yours reviews start the same way?

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2017


24588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sure why not

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

Toad
June 4th 2017


1036 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

review is pretty nice although i disagree with this line in particular:

"it’s a record tied together more by its appetite for imagination than by any single overarching aesthetic."

each track (except for snare) seems to boast the same subdued, riff-focused composition style: a few musical ideas are cast on to the table, then expanded upon with little touches over the course of each track. the production is for the most part very clean and spacious. i do like the rising sun cover quite a bit if only for the odd, twisting chord progression, but it too seems to follow in this style. it's certainly alt-j's sparsest (idea-wise) and most focused record to date. i could definitely see myself loving it if i could buy into this certain aesthetic and the personal bits of this review are definitely my favorite. cheers

Digging: Franz Schubert - "Great" Symphony No. 9 in C major, D.944

Clegane
June 4th 2017


220 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

lol that sum

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2017


16322 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8 | Sound Off

I will now link this review if anyone tries to make the claim to me or anyone else that album reviews shouldn't have the writer mentioned in them. Really great read, and agreed.

Digging: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers

Anthracks
June 4th 2017


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

cover has me intrigued

tcat84
June 4th 2017


1130 Comments


I can't agree with anyone that says this flows nicely, it's an absolute mismash of songs to me. It felt like a B-sides album, although I enjoy most of the songs.Not that "This is all yours" was a great flowing album by any means.

I also disagree that they've even had one masterpiece yet, "An Awesome wave" is still my favourite to date, but this is still fresh.



zakalwe
June 4th 2017


22711 Comments


Didn't think much of the debut, haven't even listened to their follow up. This is great though.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2017


24588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"I can't agree with anyone that says this flows nicely, it's an absolute mismash of songs to me. It felt like a B-sides album, although I enjoy most of the songs.Not that "This is all yours" was a great flowing album by any means."

I'm not sure if you're implying that I said anything of the sort, but my whole review goes out of its way to point out this is a mish mash of ideas lol.



"Didn't think much of the debut, haven't even listened to their follow up. This is great though."

Whoah zak and I agree on something...stock up on canned goods, folks.

tcat84
June 4th 2017


1130 Comments


Not at you Sowing, I guess more for the other review comments section. Got all mixed up. Review was good.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2017


24588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh, the wording just got me because after that was a quote from the review so I thought it was all in response to the review. Nevermind and thank you!



Also I agree. It's biggest downfall to me is the flow and that there are really just 7 original tracks here. Other than that, I'm in love.

Tunaboy45
June 4th 2017


15496 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review sowing, can't stop listening to this.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2017


24588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, me neither. Even the ones I disliked at first sound great to me now. That includes Snare.

FullOfSounds
June 4th 2017


15458 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

would i like this if i'm not much a fan of an awesome wave

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2017


39141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

great stuff sowbro, I think you missed a "be" in "has to be" in your last sentence tho



FOS this is in another universe to their debut definitely try it

Digging: Soundtrack (Television) - BoJack Horseman

Asdfp277
June 4th 2017


15102 Comments


i thought u said slowbro

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2017


39141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

I didn't think much at first but he's a growbro



Put him on a beat and he'll show you a flowbro

Toad
June 4th 2017


1036 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

FoS it's a lot more subdued and focused and less quirky. If that sounds up your alley there's a good chance you'll dig

FullOfSounds
June 4th 2017


15458 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah sounds like something I could either find boring or dig a lot.



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