05/29/2015

Alt, look, and listen

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In the heat of summer, indie band alt-J delivered an awesome wave last May 19.

Alt-er Boys: alt-J performed their hits last May 19 over at Solaire.
Alt-er Boys: alt-J performed their hits last May 19 over at Solaire.

Decked out in unassuming black outfits, the members of the English indie band alt-J charmed the crowd with their diverse melodies and sublime lyrics last May 19. In town to promote their latest album “This Is All Yours,” the three-piece outfit captured the essence of the album while also doing justice to the new songs live. Flashy to-do’s like the recent Katy Perry concert offered fans a lot to tweet about, but alt-J’s Solaire Theater performance proved that good shows don’t always have to come with backup dancers and flamethrowers that scream “I’m a big deal!”

The album gained rave reviews from critics and listeners on the indie scene alike, going straight to number one in the UK charts, and even earning a nomination at the 57th Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music album, proving the blogosphere to be a strong force in creating buzz for acts like alt-J. Following on the heels of their debut album, 2012’s “An Awesome Wave,” the new release has a more subdued sound.

Mr. Brightside: alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton
Mr. Brightside: alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton

Describing the overall sound of the band is a little bit difficult, as they can conjure a number of things. There are some synths here, orchestral arrangements there, and sometimes drum machines thrown into the mix. Some songs, Left Hand Free for instance, offer what the standard indie rock song might with a catchy chorus and electric guitars. Other songs like Arrival in Nara are quiet, almost eerie tracks that paint an abstract picture.

Bluest Light: The band looking sharp and slaying the crowd
Bluest Light: The band looking sharp and slaying the crowd

Opening with the electronic-driven Hunger of the Pine, audience members (both in the orchestra and balcony sections) were almost immediately on their feet. The band’s onstage vibe felt genuine, and each song was carefully crafted, unlike other songs that are practically churned out by some artists. Another notable thing about the show was the psychedelic light show — it gave each song a unique personality of sorts. Save for a few “Thank you”s and “Cheers” to the Manila audience, the British alt-J let their music rightfully take the spotlight, not relying on excessive pomp and circumstance.
After an approximately 20-song setlist, the show wound down with the nostalgic and yearning Breezeblocks. By that time, it was a full sing-along session, making it a perfect way to end the concert. It was definitely a crowd favorite. The band then took a final bow, leaving everyone satisfied. In sum, the band put on an understated show that delivered nothing but good music and a unique experience. Alt-J is just one of those bands that you have to see live to get a full understanding of the intricate narrative they weave in their songs.

Little Drummer Boy: Thom Green hitting those beats
Little Drummer Boy: Thom Green hitting those beats

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