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English rock outfit Alt-J — named for the delta symbol that appears when pressing “Alt” and “J” on a Mac keyboard — deliver eccentric indie rock that experiments with rhythm, song structure, percussion, and space. Following the 2012 release of their critically acclaimed, award-winning debut, An Awesome Wave, they expanded their scope with 2014′s This Is All Yours and 2017′s Relaxer. After the 2018 Relaxer remix album Reduxer, Alt-J returned to new music with 2022′s emotionally resonant The Dream.
First formed in 2008 under the moniker FILMS, the founding quartet — all of whom met at Leeds University — spent two years rehearsing before inking a deal with Infectious Records in 2011. Their signature blend of layered, folk-inflected dub pop and soaring alternative rock was first heard on the 2012 singles “Matilda” and “Fitzpleasure,” with the group’s full-length studio debut, An Awesome Wave, arriving later that year. The album would eventually go on to earn the prestigious Mercury Prize, alongside three Brit Award nominations. They soon became mainstays on the U.K. and European festival circuit, expanding outward with tours in the U.S. and Australia as well.
The band’s increasing success and heavy touring schedule eventually led to the amicable departure of bassist Gwil Sainsbury at the end of 2013. The remaining trio of singer/guitarist Joe Newman, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, and drummer Thom Green continued undeterred, and their sophomore record, This Is All Yours, was issued in the autumn of 2014. Critically well-received, This Is All Yours debuted at number one in the U.K. and fared similarly well in Europe and the U.S., where they earned their first Grammy nomination.
In early 2017, Alt-J issued a trio of singles — “3WW,” “In Cold Blood,” and “Adeline” — in anticipation of the release of their third studio long-player, Relaxer, which arrived later that June. While not quite as successful as its predecessor, the album sold well and earned them a second Mercury Prize nomination. In 2018, they released a remix album, Reduxer, which featured a selection of tracks from Relaxer reworked in conjunction with a raft of hip-hop artists including Danny Brown, Little Simz, and Pusha T.
In 2021, the band issued the single “U&ME” from their fourth set, The Dream. Released in February 2022, the album found Alt-J in an unexplored emotional space, showcasing warmth and humanity on tracks such as the tender acoustic ballad “Get Better.” ~ Timothy Monger