Don't mistake the title of Alt-J's third album, Relaxer, as any profound metaphor or for having some hidden meaning. In earnest, the title is as literal as it gets: Relaxer is a collection of slow, ambient ballads by the English indie rock band best known for their quirky, frenetic sound.
Those looking for the upbeat digital folk sounds of "Breezeblocks" or "Left Hand Free" will feel like they're in the wrong place on the slower-paced but wonderfully moody Relaxer. For comparison, think Bloc Party's 2016 record, Hymns, an experimental album only in that it ditched the band's prominent drumming and stylish guitar effects in favour of quiet, vocal-centric ballads. Only three records in, Alt-J are flipping the script in a similar fashion — and the results are often quite beautiful.
Be it the swelling, cinematic sounds of "Adeline" or the delicacy of "Last Year," the eight songs on Relaxer are tailor-made to slow your heart rate to a tranquil pace. Alt-J's take on "House of the Rising Sun" challenges the very notion of a cover song, with Joe Newman reciting the first verse of the Animals' classic before adding completely original lyrics, melodies and chord progressions.
While it's surprisingly early in Alt-J's careers to release what is essentially their version of an acoustic album, Relaxer provides a necessary change-up that keeps the band's iconic sound from becoming a caricature of itself. (Atlantic)