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ALBUM REVIEW: Alt-J Finds Their Groove on Third Album RELAXER

Experimental English rockers alt-J are back with a vengeance on their latest release: RELAXER. RELAXER is the band's third (and shortest) album, featuring eight tracks of pure, alternative, and totally strange goodness. Despite it being full of their signature high-pitched vocals and "grimy" bass riffs, RELAXER is a bit of a new venture for the band still yet. The album opens with the track "3WW" which features an almost bluesy guitar riff and some interesting percussion sounds. The track progresses into an ambient sound, closing out with the sounds of a woman's laughter atop an acoustic guitar. The next track on the album, "In Cold Blood", sounds more typically alt-J. The track opens with the lyrics "zero, one, one, zero, zero, one", referencing the binary language typically used by computers. The track also features some interesting brass sounds, though, which is a new venture for the band. The third track on the album, "House of the Rising Sun", is alt-J's take on a rock n' roll classic. Albeit sounding nothing like the original, this track is surprisingly impressive with its ingenuity and creative ambition. I found myself absorbed in it after one listen, and that's saying something (because I really LOVE the original version of that track). The middle of the album features the fourth and fifth tracks, "Hit Me Like That Snare" and "Deadcrush". "Hit Me Like That Snare" features more old-school rock sounds with a modern, alt-J twist, while "Deadcrush" sounds very typical of the band. "Deadcrush" isn't a bad track, though; it's actually very good, although sounding quite similar to other alt-J tracks. The band has certainly carved out their niche, though, so I repeat: sounding like "alt-J" is not a bad thing, and "Deadcrush" is still a great track. Tracks six and seven on RELAXER are titled "Adeline" and "Last Year". "Adeline" begins with slow, harmonious vocals played over cinematic sounds and acoustic guitar before ending with a bang, while "Last Year", the album's longest track, begins with a very somber tone. The song begins with the slow, somber declaration "January, you have took my heart away", followed by a list of the month's of the year and their affect on the songwriter's emotional wellbeing. "Last Year" is a slow, acoustic track up to the very end, only featuring a slight change after minute marker three or four, in which a female vocalist joins in to sing the latter half of the song. The album's eighth and final track, "Pleader", begins very quietly. It almost seems like a "hidden track", if CD-players were still in-vogue. The song, after a few moments of silence, opens with eerie electric keyboard sounds and a strange (yet not totally out of place) Spanish guitar riff. The track also features string instruments and, without giving too much away, erupts with a beautiful, melodious array of vocals toward the middle. Overall, RELAXER is a great album. It is an attempt at novelty on alt-J's part, without fully abandoning the signature sound that put them on the map. It's worth listening to this album in order (rather than on shuffle) to truly grasp the idea here; there is a flow to this album that seems intentional, and it works well for the English alt-rockers. Look out for an upcoming alt-J tour stop near YOU, seeing as the band is playing a select number of shows in the US this July.

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