Music

alt-J’s ‘The Dream’ Comeback Album is a Kaleidoscope of Emotion

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alt-J has introduced listeners to a new world of eclectic melodies jam-packed with messages and stories over the past decade. Their fourth and newest album “The Dream” stays true to their psychedelic formula.

“The Dream” invites listeners into a world of multicolored rhythms that break away from their traditional darker undertones.

The opening song “Bane” introduces a simple and lively feeling to the album. It was written about drinking a Coca-Cola and includes the sound of an opening can in the intro.

“Get Better” is a quiet piece that, according to what lead singer Joe Newman said to NME, was a big step forward in his songwriting. The intimate song feels like a whisper exchanged from one soul to another and is gently backed by an acoustic guitar. The emotional weight of losing a loved one hangs heavily heavy on the beats.

“I still pretend you’re only out of sight in another room / Smiling at your phone,” Newman sings in “Get Better.”

Yet, of the 12 songs, only a few are reminiscent of previous albums. From their 2014 hit album “This Is All Yours,” the song “Left Hand Free” has striking similarities to their new song “Hard Drive Gold.” Both use similar funky beats that make it impossible to sit still. Using electric tempos and satirical lyrics about making money during the cryptocurrency gold rush, it’s pumped with adrenaline, much like the 7th song, “Chicago.” 

“Oh, mama, did you tell Sue I’m a millionaire now, baby / Trading that crypto,” Newman sings in “Hard Drive Gold” referencing cryptocurrency. 

The shift in their discography to lighter and more upbeat music like “Hard Drive Gold” is evident  in the last song, “Powder.” The soft guitar riffs layered under strung-out notes make the song feel as though it would be played in a beach hut cafe. Simple lyrics and calming harmonies are also heard in “Happier When You’re Gone.” Both songs would be superb for a crisp autumn day. 

“The Dream” isn’t all simple sweet melodies, however. In an interview with The Guardian, Newman opened up on dealing with a friend’s sister being murdered, an event that left him and his friends horrified. Newman said it’s the reasoning behind “Losing My Mind,” where alt-J explores the dark mind of a serial killer.

 “Oh is it easy to remember what it takes to be a man?” is repeated by Newman in “Losing My Mind” and conveys the harrowing thoughts hidden behind the eyes of someone who is lost in themself.

That nonchalant attitude however is not reflective of how the band really feels regarding their careers. Newman told Rolling Stone about how he is affected by the cynical comments he gets as a musician. “But as I’ve got older, I find it really gets to me, it really upsets me,” Newman told Rolling Stone. “The Dream” is a new era for their songwriting and Newman said he hopes his fans enjoy this redesigned image for the band.

“The Dream” is now available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services.

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