Alt-J - Relaxer
Relaxer is the new album from British outfit Alt-J. This their third major release is the bands shortest record to date yet it somehow also manages to be their least focused. You are not going to find the potential hits like "Breezeblocks" or "Left Hand Free" on Relxar instead Alt-J do a whole lot of experimentation to varying results. The opener and also the albums first single "3WW" is almost three different songs throughout it's five minute runtime and is a real Canary in the coal mine that is this record. It is disparate, unfocused with lots of ambient sounds that add little to the song at all. That is where this album lands, tons of influence, lots of ideas but very little in terms of solid music. "In Cold Blood" is the most classically Alt-J sounding song, but is also a track that would be the third or fourth single from one of their other records. There are only eight tracks on this record but most are over five minutes long. This is also the most Art Rock Alt-J have ever gone. "House of the Rising Sun" starts with this childish sounding keyboard that fades away to an almost Chaucer-esque sound. They are drawing from Renaissance music, but it doesn't seem like they fully understand it, or how to bring it into their vibe. "Hit Me Like That Snare" is hands down the worst song on the album as it tries to be some kind of post-punk or a half psychedelic jam sesh. It sounds like The Doors meets the Yeah Yeah Yeah's but shitty. The chant at the end of "Hit Me Like That Snare" is "fuck you! I do what I wanna do." which sounds like some bratty child speaking to their exasperated mother.
There is just zero urgency on this record and that cause it to just drag and drag. It takes almost two minutes for "Deadcrush" to really kick in, which is just to much fucking time to be doing really nothing. The loose feeling on the album is punctuated by Newman's words which is so often just repetition. Alt-J are not respecting your time what so ever on this record. The one truly great song on the album is "Adeline" and man oh man is it good. It is exactly what you want from Alt-J, artistic, interesting and vibrant with plenty of peaks. Yet Relaxer as a whole is so one note, despite its varied influences, it just does not make any kind of sense. These are not the tracks that go sweeping over music festival main stages and get the entire crowd moving together, and that sucks. "Last Year" takes about 3 minutes before the beautiful female vocal comes in and you are so weary by that time it is hard to really appreciate it. The choices on this record just never land like Alt-J likely hoped and what we are left with is a bit of a mess. there are however still some good ideas and songs that have some potential. Maybe the best idea is just to pretend like this record never happened and move along, nothing to see here.
5.4 out of 10