By Becky Little (@sometimesboring)
May 25th. Looking back into history, quite a few interesting things happened on this very day; the restoration of the British monarchy, JFK’s announcement that he was going to put a man on the moon and the birth of Cillian Murphy (heart eyes) and Mike Myers (Shrek-shaped eyes). However, arguably none of these are as exciting as the debut release of those groove-inducers, Alt-J. An Awesome Wave is the album in question, and awesome it is 5 years down the line.
2012 was the year heralded by many as being a fundamentally important year for indie rock, with massive releases from artists such as Tame Impala and The XX, this year set off many an embarrassing indie phase for today’s cool kids. An Awesome Wave was one of those albums which people displayed across their Tumblr accounts (no doubt because the triangle imagery was so #aesthetic), or it was one which slowly and surely grew on many. However, as years have passed and people have grown through their teens with the album, it has matured and gone from being Tumblr-core to an essential album in anybody’s collection. It’s one of those which you can listen to all the way through, albeit a difficult task for many musicians to execute well.
It is throughout An Awesome Wave that Alt-J’s signature euphemistic raunchiness is established. With tracks such as Fitzpleasure and Tessellate, outright NSFW lyrics are disguised with discreet references to trigonometry and “feckless men who queue to be the next.” This trend continued further into their sophomore release, This Is All Yours, too but that’s a discussion for another day since we shouldn’t really be talking about S-E-X in front of the C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N. (Sex Cauldron? I thought they shut that place down! – Ed)
In order to counter the naughtiness, the incredibly inventive Leeds University grads litter their first offering with beautiful interludes, which all differ stylistically and split the album into 3. The first section offers the critically acclaimed track Breezeblocks, which had its fair share of airplay before and after the album’s release. Whether this was one of the reasons the album did so well is unsure, however what is true is that Alt-J arguably went from being niche to very widely mainstream. While some would claim this is a bad thing, in the case of An Awesome Wave it opened the floodgates for more less-conventional pop to enter the charts. Somehow, it also mingled its way into pop culture with the sensational Youtube video, How To Write An Alt-J Song, which has racked up 6 million views. It’s undeniable the influence that this unique debut has had.
The second and third aforementioned sections feature some more mellow tracks, one of which being Taro, a history lesson which has been turned into an Indian-influenced emotion-fest. Taro tells the tale of a photographer, ‘Capa’, during what can only be assumed as being wartime in South Asia, with “Indochina” being the first lyric of the haunting yet beautiful song. The powerful bass riff in the middle of the song followed by a cheerful ‘hey Taro!’ is definitely one of the most memorable moments of the entire album, which in itself is full of surprises.
It is very safe to say that An Awesome Wave has aged miraculously well, and upon reaching half a decade of gracing our ears, we must thank Alt-J for making being a little bit weird so damn cool.