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Up-and Comers: Alt-J

While UK-based act Alt-J is not actually a “new” band (they used to go by the moniker “Films”), they have recently been generating a lot of buzz worldwide over their unique combination of folk, alternative and electronic elements—a sound some are referring to as “folk-step.”

Whatever you call it, I think it’s a highly catchy sound—and apparently a lot of other people do, too. The band’s debut album An Awesome Wave, released earlier this year in the UK and just last month in the US, had already been doing well until it managed to garner the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize in October, at which point NME reports their record sales spiked over 400 percent.

If Alt-J seems like a strange name for a band, it gets stranger. The “actual” name of the band is “∆”, the Greek letter delta, created by typing “alt-J” on a Mac. Get it? Anyway, the delta symbol is the mathematical symbol for change, which has become a meaningful theme for the band in a number of ways. For us fans, it represents not only a change of name from Films to Alt-J, but the change of sound, as well—the unique blending of sounds that band has come up with to give them their own unique vibe.

Apparently, they’ve stumbled onto something awesome. I think they are going to go far.

Below, I’ve included two videos that give a good idea of their sound. The second one, “Tessellate,” continues the band’s use of math metaphors to convey an idea: “Triangles are my favorite shape / Three points where two lines meet.” Not to mention the song’s title is a geometric term. See what you think!


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About the Author


Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Kim Phelps found her inspiration and love for music listening to local bands play in the coffeehouses around town. She soon found her own voice as a singer-songwriter, and eventually began playing her own gigs in the coffee shops. Her personal influences include Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson and Cat Power, but as an indie musician herself, she has an affinity for any band or artist who pursues creative freedom on the outskirts of the music industry. As our Indie correspondent, Kim makes a point of highlighting up-and-coming independent acts who are creating a buzz and building an audience. When she's not blogging for us or playing in the coffee shops, Kim works as a barista herself to help pay the bills. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Posted in: Featured, Indie/Alternative Music


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