“There are people who were really into us when we started but don’t think we’re cool any more,” Alt-J’s keyboard-player Gus Unger-Hamilton recently admitted. With expectations high after their acclaimed debut and the departure of guitarist Gwil Sainsbury’s, there was bound to be trepidation regarding their next release. But it seemed with their second album, This Is All Yours, the now three-piece had taken these concerns into their stride, first releasing the ambitious single ‘Hunger of the Pine’, in all its Miley Cyrus sampling glory. But on first listen the album doesn’t quite live up to that track’s excellence, in spite of a glitchy, melodic intro that oddly recalls Enya. Structured around the Japanese forest of Nara, there are lots of sweeping, alien sounds on the album, but at times things can get somewhat overblown — the woodwind interlude of ‘Garden of England’ seems particularly self-indulgent (if comical). After the subtle sexiness of ‘Tessellate’, there is a grotesque clumsiness to lyrics like “I want to turn you inside out / and lick you like a crisp packet”. But when they’re good, there’s no denying it: ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ is an epic, boasting their exquisite proclivity to perfectly syncopated beats. ‘Bloodfood Pt.ii’ is gorgeously realised with its rich swathes of brass, strings and piano. Closing track ‘Leaving Nara’ glimmers pleasantly too, but that’s the problem: overall it’s a pleasant listen, but — as was perhaps always going to be the case — This Is All Yours lacks the lustre of their debut.
Originally published in tn2 Magazine.