Posted in music on August 7, 2012

by Andrew Sacher

Alt-J at Mercury Lounge - 8/6/12 (via BrooklynVegan Instagram)

Towards the end of UK 4-piece Alt-J's set at Mercury Lounge in NYC last night (8/6), singer/guitarist Joe Newman took a slightly extended pause in the quiet turning point of "Breezeblocks," before pounding drums entered and most of the crowd (at least the front half) gave raucous cheers, danced, and sang along to the ending refrain, "Please don't go, please don't go/I love you so, I love you so." It was the most impacting point of the show, but the energy was not unmatched throughout the set. The crowd seemed to know all the words to most of the songs and the band couldn't have been more appreciative. They thanked us multiple times and seemed genuinely surprised at the positive reaction, given that it was only their second time in New York -- for their first, they were the opening band at Mercury Lounge, last night was their first of two sold out headlining shows here this week -- and that their debut album, An Awesome Wave, is not even out on our side of the Atlantic yet (it's due out 9/18 via Canvasback).

The band members are all skilled musicians, an aspect that isn't usually too crucial in the indie world, but instead of being show-offy or overplaying, they use it to create compelling pop songs. But the most impressive part of Alt-J's sound is how strikingly original they are. In a decade where most emerging indie bands have immediate ties to past eras of music, Alt-J's sound is pretty unprecedented. There are a few reference points -- the complex rhythms of Radiohead, vocal punch of Klaxons/Foals/Maccabees, and a bit of Mumford & Sons harmonies -- but mostly it's hard to compare them to anything. Other high points in their set came when they nailed the falsettos in the mid-section of "Dissolve Me" (I think I saw one girl in the crowd let out a relieving "yes!" right afterwards) and it was hard to find someone not singing and dancing to the choruses of "Something Good," "Fitzpleasure," and "Matilda." When the silent rests of "Ms" were met by talking and laughter from the crowd, it showed they've got a ways to go if they want to be silencing rooms James Blake style, but these boys are definitely going places and they're well worth a listen if you haven't already.

Alt-J will play another sold out show tonight (8/7) at Glasslands) with Mon Khmer and SoftSpot and will return to NYC on their larger fall tour which hits Bowery Ballroom on September 12. Tickets for that show are still available.

The show began with a solid opening set from Brooklyn's Illumntr, whose vocal harmony pop is very post-Grizzly Bear/Yeasayer, but enjoyable nonetheless. The strongest song in their set was their new single, "Tangled with Bear," which you can download (name your price) at their bandcamp. You can catch them again in NYC with METZ at Pianos on August 31 (tickets).

We didn't have a photographer at last night's show, but a few iPhone pics and Alt-J's setlist are below...


Mercury Lounge

Illumntr (via BrooklynVegan Instagram)



Alt-J - Mercury Lounge 8/6/12 Setlist:
Interlude I
Something Good
Dissolve Me
Interlude II
Handmade (hidden track on album)




Comments (12)

saw them at the Lolla after-show at the Empty Bottle last night! These guys just exploded onto the scene! Can definitely see how they got to become so popular!

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 12:56 PM

* insert cynical out of the loop trollish post here *

Posted by your mom | August 7, 2012 1:07 PM

Glowing comment with three exclamation points!!! Link to video.

[I work for their PR]

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 1:10 PM

Post-Dave Matthews garbage sounding shit. If a trash band has good marketing...

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 1:18 PM

^exactly. I'd rather see a band with more real diversity from track to track, like the iPods.

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 1:20 PM

There is a band called the iPod's? That's pretty funny!

Posted by Diana Vos | August 7, 2012 1:22 PM

Lin5an1ty is thankful to be away from this nonsense.

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 1:23 PM

Alt J is the stupidest name I've ever heard.

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 1:53 PM


Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 2:07 PM

1:20, LOL!

Posted by Anonymous | August 7, 2012 3:32 PM

A new band from Cambridge is pushing the limits of alternative rock to the edge. With transient beats, folksy guitars, layered vocals, and unpredictable song structures, Alt-J’s debut album titled “An Awesome Wave” takes listeners to another world of music.

Alt-J, deriving its name from the delta symbol formed when pressing the alt key and the J key on a computer keyboard, formed at Leeds University in 2007. Guitarist and lead vocalist Joe Newman played bass player Gwil several of his own songs. Gwil was inspired to record and produce the songs in his dorm room using Garage Band. Soon after, Thom Green joined the band on drums, later on saying, “It was music I was looking for, I just didn’t know I was. I just loved it.” The band was completed when Gus Unger-Hamilton joined the band on keyboard.

The music the quartet produces is nearly impossible to compare to anything else. The band is somewhat reminiscent of Radiohead or Moby with a mixture of genres in their music. At certain points, Texas based instrumental band, Explosions in the Sky, comes to mind with a dreamy amnesiac sound; yet overall Alt-J is wading out into new waters. There are hints of folk with gentle picking on the guitar, dub step with heavily distorted bass and effects, and tribal or worldly influences with primal drumbeats and a sitar featured in the song “Taro.” Joe Newman’s lyrics are fascinating, abstract, beautiful and poetic; they deal with tragedy, love, fear, and death.

“An Awesome Wave” is so well rounded and produced, it’s difficult to believe it’s the band’s debut. Intro opens the album, with a simple piano soon building up with drums and a wailing guitar riff until it epically peaks when Joe Newman serenely draws your attention with rhythmic vocals under deep layered tracks. The song sets the tone for the remainder of the epic album. After a brief interlude, Tessellate continues the album with dissonant pianos, catchy beats and captivating lyrics. Ms will lull you to gently into your dreams followed by the bass heavy song with primal drum beats titled Fitzpleasure. Bloodflood will drown you in a sea of meditative harmonies, transient drum beats, and enchanting guitars, then wash you up on nirvana’s shores. Each of the songs on “An Awesome Wave” are unique and extremely well crafted. The debut album will be available in the United States on September 8th.

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Posted by Ryan | August 21, 2012 2:19 PM

freaking great times.

Posted by jordon | July 24, 2013 9:59 PM

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