alt-J On Their Upcoming Fourth Album: “It’s A Heart-Breaking Work Of Staggering Genius”

A long time coming.

alt-J says their new album, The Dream, is one that shows a new side to them musically while also retaining their essence.

For fans of English indie folk band alt-J, their fourth studio album, The Dream, has been a long time coming. Their first album, 2012’s An Awesome Wave, was a critically acclaimed Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello Award-winning debut that put the band on the map. Their follow up, 2014’s This Is All Yours, topped charts and gave alt-J a GRAMMY and BRIT nomination. While in 2017, their third studio album, RELAXER, flew straight into the top 10 and became their second album to be nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize.

But aside from dropping a rework of RELAXER in 2018 called REDUXER, it has been relatively radio silent the acclaimed folk band, until now. After three years, alt-J returned with their latest single called U&ME, which was later followed up by the emotional and stirring Get Better and the burst of energy that is Hard Drive Gold. All this served as singles off their highly anticipated four studio album, The Dream, set for release on February 11, 2022. Ahead of the album’s release, NYLON Manila spoke with the acclaimed folk band to discuss their latest body of work, what they’ve been up to, and much more.

Photo by George Muncey

Why did you decide to release U&ME as your first single off the new album?


We wanted to come back with a really positive song about good times—after going through the pandemic we thought the world needed it.


Did the pandemic affect how you approached the album? And if so, how?


It gave us more time to work on the album, which was a good thing. In the past we’ve had to rush a bit to meet deadlines but this time we could just go at our own pace.


When The Dream drops this February, it will be your longest time between your album releases. Aside from working on the album, what have you been up to in-between the release of Relaxer and The Dream?


We’ve been growing up! Marriage, babies, dogs, houses. All the usual things people in their 30s do, haha.


Why did you call the album The Dream?


It’s named after a Picasso painting of the same name. But also we thought it worked for the album in other ways, like how it’s always shifting and taking unexpected turns.


What was it like working on The Dream?


It was like walking through an orchard and picking ripe delicious fruit from different trees. A delight.


How would you describe the album?

A heart-breaking work of staggering genius.


Get Better differs greatly from your previous releases with its peeled back sound and emotional message. How did that song come about?


It was written during the pandemic, about a man losing his wife to an illness. While it’s not necessarily about coronavirus, it’s definitely a product of the time.


Given the long wait between the release of your last album and this upcoming one, do you feel a pressure to live up to the anticipation?


All we can do is make the best music we possibly can and hope people like it as much as we do!

Could you describe the album’s art cover and what was the inspiration behind it?


It’s rather unsettling drawing of a humanoid figure by the artist Joel Wiley—a friend of ours and someone whose art we love. Much like the album, it’s intriguing, a bit dark but open to interpretation.


What can your fans look forward to with the new album?


Hopefully they will find we’ve gone to new places on it musically but retained our quintessential “alt-J-ness.”


Which song on The Dream is your favorite and why?


I love Bane as it’s like three songs in one, a real journey. Also the hook on the intro is really addictive and fun to play.


Which song on the album are you most excited for people to hear?


The Actor, it’s a very cool song.


What songs from the album are you looking forward to performing live?


I’m playing bass for the first time on this album on several songs: Hard Drive Gold, Philadelphia, and Losing My Mind. So, I’m excited to play those ones!

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