Album review: New alt-J record “The Dream” is nightmarish

Earlier this month, alt-J released their fourth full length album “The Dream.” Opening with a ominous and psychedelic number, I was excited for what was in store.

It all goes downhill from here.

I find that the first two tracks are the only real “I’ll come back to this later” songs on the record. 

When it comes to alt-J, I look forward to fun guitar bits and that petite, borderline scat voice that alt-J is so well known for. “The Dream” not only drops the ball in instrumental impressions, but also vocal skills. I can’t imagine anyone asked for a full-length album where lead singer Joe Newman sings in an adjacent room through a drainpipe, but here we are.

Now, I know it’s a bit harsh to compare this album to their first album “An Awesome Wave,” but when they release such a solid first album and follow it up with the impressive “This Is All Yours,” a standard has been set. 

It’s not necessarily boring, there are moments of enjoyment, but they are spent chuckling to oneself. I think I laughed more at this record than I have at any of the new BabyTron or Zack Fox tracks in the past few months, artists that intentionally catch you off guard for a reaction. 

I think what I’m missing from this album is not a normal alt-J trait, but something that could have saved the record; complexion. alt-J is not usually a very complex artist. They use straightforward drums and basslines and bless us with the occasional shreddy guitar solo. The only tracks that have any true sign of depth are the first two tracks. The rest of the record feels like a slow burn for the same song, just rearranged and remade in a different key.

I do my best to find what I can enjoy about a record, but I don’t want to try with this. It’s alt-J, I’m supposed to enjoy this. Having an artist who’s been in my normal sphere of music release such a cheugy album is not only disappointing, but exhausting.

I give alt-J’s “The Dream” 1.3 Mikey Heads out of 5. Sad.

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