Now, after their longest hiatus from releasing a full album, they return with The Dream, and it’s well worth the wait. Each track has been meticulously crafted. It’s a beautiful journey through genre, from psychedelia to trip-hop, to folk, to the glistening medieval-style harmonies that these boys’ choir voices so naturally lend themselves to.
Despite the fact that the album’s narrative does not follow an obvious progression, it’s still firmly the musical equivalent of a page-turner: impossible to put down until the final track gently drifts away, leaving you wanting more.
Lyrically, this album allows for hours of consideration even after a shallow first or second listen. Songs like ‘Hard Drive Gold’ and ‘The Actor’, in usual alt-J style, burrow into the stories of others through cryptic and catchy riddles. The incredibly sincere ‘Get Better’ is about a life partner’s gradual passing, creating an intimate and heartbreakingly beautiful world with its sparse instrumentation and fluid sense of timing.
Overall, alt-J have again captured all that is great about the band’s style of music-making, while also clearly pushing themselves further than they have before, eagerly exploring new sound worlds.
There’s a lot to like for those who are already fans of the band, but it’s also a wonderfully well-crafted album that deserves to be widely heard on its own merits. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues on hand for the more emotional tracks.