Label: Infectious Music/BMG
Released: 11th February 2022
After the cold hiss and sizzle of a can of fizzy pop being opened, a cry of ‘I sold my soul!’ erupts over a slinking guitar line, and the fourth ‘proper’ album from alt-J begins to take flight. Soaring upwards from that serene opening, ‘Bane’ builds itself into something of titanic proportions amongst heartfelt pleas to the God that has forsaken them. All this, and it’s only track one of ‘The Dream’, a record that cements the band’s position as a Radiohead that it’s okay to still get excited about.
Playful early single ‘U&ME’ heads off on Quite A Trip, and that represents much of what ‘The Dream’ is like. Bold, experimental and loose-limbed, the record might be partially based on crime stories and Old Hollywood tales, but in truth, it’s as much fun to let it just wash over you as it is to explore the clues left scattered around. There’s something deliciously thrilling about how alt-J are moving between moods within single tracks, or how they can wring romance and emotion about a lyric about the smell of burning cattle. It’s no accident that recent single ‘Get Better’ lies at the centre of the record, its emotionally devastating and tender open wound of grief and love making for a beating heart. As it unfolds, it is red raw in its poignant capture of the tiny beautiful moments that build a relationship.
By its climax, ‘The Dream’ ends in the same way it began, floating and gliding amongst snatches of conversations. The band have chucked opera singers, barbershop quartet style singing, and euphoric Chicago House beats into the mix, even managing to make singing about cryptocurrency almost feel kind of sexy. In what is already an exciting time for fans of music that is can’t be easily defined genre-wise, alt-J have pushed themselves back to the front here.