Two and a half years on from their last album, This Is All Yours, the unmistakeable sounds of alt-J have returned and manifested themselves in a brand new single.
‘3WW’, or ‘Three Worn Words’, dropped on Monday shortly after the band changed their image on basically every social media and posting a mysterious, short video clip, which turned out to be the intro to their new track. Oddly, there didn’t seem to be anywhere near as much hype around it as when they returned to the music scene with ‘Hunger of the Pine’ in 2014, but fans still mostly seemed pretty excited about a new track.
Breezy but brooding, the intro to ‘3WW’ almost seems to crawl in with a light, drawn-out guitar instrumental – possibly too drawn-out – before the song finally begins to progress a minute and a half in with Gus’ vocals. Considering his vocals are usually just in the background, this comes quite unexpectedly, but their smooth, unobtrusiveness tone work well with the preceding instrumental. But it’s not long before Joe’s ever-unique voice comes in, endearing and enchanting and ultimately alt-J’s definitive element. And in with it comes a sudden, almost choir-like part, before a short lull and then then an intensifying build involving Thom’s irregular, sketchy drum sounds paired with samples of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell: a combination which is probably the highlight of the entire song, and feels similar to the Miley Cyrus samples of ‘Hunger of the Pine’. Yet after this, the song sinks back down to the intro, featuring the same choir-like part and short lull again, but a second build never comes. It definitely feels like its lacking something without it, but does make you want to listen again just for that more intense section.
‘3WW’ is certainly not lacking in abstraction, but seems quite an odd choice as a single to return with. Rather than being a stand-out song in itself, it feels more like something that will work well on the album – like ‘Ms’ on An Awesome Wave, or ‘Pusher’ on This Is All Yours – but is unlikely to capture the attention of people immediately. Although perhaps not as exciting as hoped to be, its still quite a beautiful, understated track, and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of their upcoming third album. Relaxer will be released on the 9th June.