With the sprawling This Is All Yours, Alt-J keeps one foot firmly rooted in the endearing quagmire of melodic prog that defined their 2012 debut, An Awesome Wave, while at the same time constructing songs with a baroque precision that lends the band’s sonic elements more room to breathe than ever before. The Leeds trio’s newly focused approach yields a moment of arresting choral opulence on “Intro,” where countless layers of initially trivial vocals build atop each other like a musical Jenga tower. Elsewhere, singer Joe Newman’s seductive warblings snake their way through a synthesized labyrinth of foreboding buzz on the crisply paced “Every Other Freckle,” while album highlights “Hunger of the Pine” and “Bloodflood, Pt. II” smartly eschew the band’s more rakish impulses in favor of carefully crafted slow-burns. While the jocular “Left Hand Free” is evidence that Alt-J hasn’t completely shed their penchant for the ridiculous, its straightforward nature juxtaposes nicely against the album’s more ambitious experiments, namely a conceptual detour honoring the Japanese city of Nara. Even by Alt-J’s standards, this three-song ode—“Arrival in Nara”, “Nara”, and “Leaving Nara”—to a city best known for its free-roaming deer feels a tad leftfield. Yet the band achieves a surprising degree of poignancy by consistently handling these potentially outrageous moments without the slightest trace of irony. Perhaps they know something about the deer in Nara that we don’t.
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