When: Fri., Sept. 20 2013
ALT-J By all rights, English indie rockers Alt-J should suck. The band’s name, derived from the hot-key combo that pulls up a delta symbol on a Mac, smacks of nerdy pretension. Song lyrics bounce off artsy touchstones like Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional and Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, suggesting the insular musings of film and literature snobs. Singer Joe Newman’s nasal, highly dramatic vocals recall the funny voices employed by comedian Peter Sellers on Britain’s beloved Goon Show. Add to all of this the dreaded curse of Britain’s Mercury Prize: Legend has it that music newcomers who nab this accolade subsequently drop off the map. Guess who grabbed the trophy last year? Despite these four strikes (and counting), Alt-J handily gets to home plate. Its 2012 debut LP, An Awesome Wave, a mishmash of alt-rock histrionics, medieval harmonies, Jah Wobble-style dub bass and the weirdly sung, unsettling folk of forgotten ’70s Brit oddballs Comus, is simply awesome. Those arty lyrics are just oblique enough to be evocative, and Alt-J’s seamless prog-rocker fusion of disparate elements is addictively crunchy and creepy. Indeed, Alt-J’s counterintuitive accessibility pisses off the Pitchfork crowd. All the more reason to love them.