Five years after their last album, English band alt-J is back with The Dream, an inspiring and overwhelming entry into the band’s catalog. From the stripped back ode to a lost loved one, “Get Better,” to the washed out guitar and lamenting choir of “Happier When You’re Gone,” most songs weigh heavily on the listener. An air of religiosity strings through many songs, most notably on the minute-long “Delta” (the symbol from which the band derives its name) that plays like a hymn on the confusing nature of faith. The band’s lyrical inspirations range from force fields to drugs to even soda, yet every example commands the listener’s attention all the same.
Epic production shifts between sonic motifs, giving many tracks a sense of progression. The guitars and organs on “Losing My Mind” register so low that they sound like industrial machinery; the song’s triumphant centerpoint benefits greatly from this mood before it yields back to the heavy instrumentation. On the record, alt-J often prioritizes delivery and sound of words over easy comprehension, making lyrics a rewarding puzzle to decode. The Dream feels pulled from the unconscious—meticulously curated imperfections like guitar scratches or hastily cut samples build up a raw and surreal atmosphere. From the sound of an opening can in the album’s first seconds, The Dream washes over you without ever seeming to fizzle out.
Brendan Hegarty is a sophomore in the SFS studying Culture and Politics. He is also the Commentary Co-Editor.