Alt-J: The Dream Review – a walk through the curio shop | Alt j
PMaybe Alt-J doesn’t get enough respect for their creative promiscuity. Joe Newman’s altar boy croon is so distinctive, often cooing an incomprehensible lament while unwilling instruments chuckled in painful sympathy, that the ambitions of their songs can be unfairly overlooked. There’s nothing more surprising on this fourth album than 2018’s impressive hip-hop debut Deadcrush remix, but The dream proves how good they have become at seeding American music like blues, funk and house in their quintessentially English choral, classical and folk forms. Perhaps it was a largely business decision – it was the bluesy Left Hand Free that got them into the US charts, rather than the delicate delights Taro or Tessellate.
In both cases, The dream is another pleasant walk around the last curio shop of the bunch. Crypto cowboys are called out on Hard Drive Gold, and there are outlandish puns on U&ME. Yet death also looms over the album, with the killer ballad Happier When You’re Gone and the intense Get Better, one of their most painfully direct and emotional songs to date, about watching someone. a slowly moving away in times of Covid. Technically proficient, beautifully sung and lyrically high-pitched, it exemplifies what The dream does so well.