alt-j – Relaxer

RELAXER follows the Mercury Prize winning debut, An Awesome Wave and 2014’s #1 album This is All Yours. 2017 brings the notoriously tricky third album. Not that it has much to live up to…

In my own experience, alt-J are incredibly good at dividing opinion. People either love or hate their quirky, awkward sound. I’ve heard every description from ‘this is genius’ to ‘it’s just noise’. RELAXER proves no different, with perhaps more people (so far) leaning towards the latter. Nevertheless, my opinion is positive.

Do I think it’s as good as the first two offerings? Probably not, yet there are high points worthy of recognition.

Track 1 and first single 3WW sets the tone for RELAXER. With lead singer Joe Newman’s signature timbre and melodies that would not seem astray in the Hobbit trilogy, the track certainly marks the album as an oddity. I like 3WW. The whole track seems flimsily held together with various musical ideas coming one by one with only few re-iterations throughout. Conventional structure is forgotten and there is little direction as a result, yet it is strangely listenable. Jack Kerouac would be proud.

Classic alt-J seems resumed in In Cold Blood, an upbeat track laced with synthesised organ and a punchy brass arrangement. The infectiously catchy melody makes it a perfect go-to radio hit. You’ll leave with zeros and ones echoing round your head. This is the high point of the album and lines up 2nd of the 8.

The Leeds trio often straddle the line of quirk and just plain odd. Once the singles have come and gone, the rest of the album certainly divides itself across this line. On such a short album, only 8 tracks, having sub-par elements is perhaps unforgivable.

Hit Me Like That Snare is, frankly, a difficult listen. The glorious Adeline is counteracted by the simply strange Deadcrush. It’s simply not to my taste. Last Year is a slow, gentle folk-inspired 6-minuter: pleasant but could do with cutting down a touch. Pleader closes the show in erratically spectacular style, reminding me of a contemporary orchestral piece packed into 5 minutes and 49 seconds. Brilliant.


My desire is not to pre-form an opinion for you. It is merely to provide you with a basis from which to form your own. This album is certainly not to everyone’s taste, and I fully expect it to divide an audience as previous alt-J albums have done. Whether the band’s faithful will remain so steadfast in their enjoyment remains a question for me. Nevertheless, regardless of the odd lacklustre track, the album is an interesting listen and I would encourage you to give it a go.

Release Date 2nd June 2017 (Infectious Music)

alt-J Official | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Will Lawton

I am a third year music student at the University of Leeds and am passionate about experiencing music. In my view, being able to hear, see and appreciate the human involvement in playing an instrument or singing is the most important thing.