Review Summary: An album lost within itself.
Every time I listen to This Is All Yours
, I’m reminded of the true power that music possesses. There is no limit to creative expression; only what the imagination can conjure. When an artist channels his or her innermost passions, they craft an aural expression of individuality for the world to behold. In a time where trends seem to dominate everything, it’s refreshing to hear a band that just does whatever the fuck it wants to. Alt-J ignored all of the expectations that were placed upon them for their highly anticipated sophomore album and wrapped themselves inside an hour long bubble of utter self-indulgence. There’s an admirable sense of resistance that screams we won’t get sucked in
, and it is this same defiance that lends This Is All Yours
its overarching atmosphere. No irony was lost, then, on the album title – because if anything this is all theirs.
The simple fact that Alt-J looks inward for this album makes it significantly more rewarding than any rehash of An Awesome Wave
would have been. Sure, it is drearier and far less exciting, but for what it lacks in energy it more than makes up for in its brazen charting of new territory. There’s folk undertones in ‘Warm Foothills’, with light acoustic picking that acts as a babbling brook and stunning vocal melodies that set the stage for a whistled tune and string section to sound like the most hauntingly beautiful thing ever. Popular standout ‘Left Hand Free’ lies on the opposite end of the spectrum, exploding with 60’s nostalgia and a flair for modern day indie-pop. Both songs are incredibly successful in their own right, but if you played them separately to an unsuspecting listener, he or she probably wouldn't put them together as songs from the same album. But that’s the thing about This Is All Yours
– there are bold imprints made across multiple genres, yet the whole fits together like an abstract puzzle that appears clearer and clearer the farther you step away.
True to the puzzle analogy, everything is in its right place here. Consider ‘Hunger of the Pine’, a Miley Cyrus sampling track featuring the line “I’m a female rebel.” On its own, it doesn't really make any sense. Place it within This Is All Yours
, and you have an electronically influenced composition that bridges the more rigid structure of the album’s opening half with its fluid, riskier back half. ‘Garden of England’ is another one that independently qualifies as a head-scratcher, but in its proper context makes ‘Choice Kingdom’ sound regal and majestic. Alt-J’s ability to weave obviously different styles together so effortlessly is what makes This Is All Yours
such a smooth listen time after time.
It’s rare to encounter an album this stylistically eclectic yet so true to the artists’ sense of self. You can really tell that Alt-J retreated inward a little bit, deciding to pursue their own curiosity instead of the neatly laid out path that logically followed their debut. At times it’s a challenging road, adding wrinkles to what we’re comfortable with while pushing that ever-elastic imaginative boundary. If you can see past the ponderous pace to This Is All Yours
’ lush, diverse core, then you’re well on your way to understanding what Alt-J is trying to accomplish. They're not focused on meeting or even exceeding our expectations, they're vying for intrinsically-sparked creativity and the inventiveness that follows suit. It may not be what fans of An Awesome Wave
had originally wanted, but thank God it isn't. This Is All Yours
is an album lost within itself, in the best way possible.