Were alt-J always this bat-shit? That’s the question that keeps popping up in our head following every bizarre but brilliant single from the Leeds once-four-now-three-piece. Hunger of the Pine has almost become an instant classic thanks to its leftfield sampling of Miley Cyrus, while Every Other Freckle made sure we’d never look at a crisp packet in the same way again.
On Intro, they clearly start This Is All Yours as they mean to go on. It’s a riveting, raucous blend of glee-club harmonies that blends into anthemic chanting, and it’s nothing short of astounding. As we segue into Arrival of Nara, it’s a good two minutes till a voice interrupts the fragility for a song that is more aligned with CSNY or Fleet Foxes than An Awesome Wave. One thing is immediately apparent, then: you can’t call this the work of a straightforward guitar band any more. This is something way loftier, and something that belongs more in the wild than a cloistered bar.
Of course, they do that alt-rock thing a treat on tracks like Left Hand Free, but then a twee interlude (Garden of England) precedes the hushed wonder of Choice Kingdom; the predatory Hunger of the Pine balances the pastoral Warm Foothills. It’s a strange dichotomy and a mischievous extension of British eccentricity that works throughout the album – what we know of this band, the Mercury Prize-winning lot from Tessellate, compared to the fiercely confident bunch swerving derision with a track called The Gospel of John Hurt and making it one of their career best.
Forget everything you know about alt-J, then. Forget the preconceptions you have about what they are, what genre they inhabit, because none of that matters. What they manage to do on This Is All Yours is even beyond something like, say, Wild Beasts – constantly surprising and forever riveting, it finally feels like we have a band to proudly parade on an international stage.