Britain’s – and this year’s winner of that country’s Mercury Prize – alt-J had their first headlining show in Seattle on December 17th, bringing with them Wildcat! Wildcat!. A quartet, alt-J is an unusual band and one I’d say is unique in music’s climate at the moment. Their debut LP, An Awesome Wave, often reminds me of a-ha’s later work – I’m talking about way past what you might know a-ha for. As an a-ha aficionado (I mean that) there’s not much higher a compliment I can give a band. They possess similar gentle, sweeping sounds with elegant guitars and singer/guitarist Joe Newman’s vocals at times recall a-ha vocalist Morten Harket’s strongest moments. The band includes various gorgeous sounds: sometimes the music will sound a bit Irish, sometimes it will sound Spanish, or Indian, and while watching alt-J I was struck by singer/guitarist Joe Newman’s and guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury’s guitar playing. They plucked their guitars with their fingers, using a pizzicato style I have never seen in a “pop” band. It was a beautiful thing to hear and see. The way Newman and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton combined their vocals, as in “Fitzpleasure,” was also really lovely. And I need to mention that drummer Thom Green is a mighty great drummer. The set list was familiar to and loved by the audience, and included “Something Good,” “Breezeblocks,” “Dissolve Me,” “Matilda,” “Taro” (my top alt-J song) and “Tessellate,” with the lyrics triangles are my favorite shape. Tessellation is an actual thing, by the way: Tessellation is the process of creating a two-dimensional plane using the repetition of a geometric shape with no overlaps and no gaps (thank you Wikipedia). They also covered Kylie Minogue’s mash up with Dr. Dre, “Slow Dre” in a sexily alternate way that took me midway through the song before I recognized it. And, a bonus: Newman wore a T-shirt from the nearby , one of my favorite restaurants.
Wildcat! Wildcat!, a great trio from Los Angeles, opened the evening. I would be well- disposed towards any band with this name, but they actually have some sweet tunes, so even better! Their vocals were also strong, and their songs were alluring pieces for sure. I want to see them headline here for a longer set. I recommend you head over to the band’s music page, where you can download – for free – a couple Wildcat! Wildcat! tracks, “Mr. Quiche” and “The Chief.”