That One Song: “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J

My friend who recommended this song to me said that he couldn’t stop playing it for the week after he heard it, and I might be on the same path.

I always appreciate the tracks that just jump right into it: no repeating chord progression or guitar riff needed to set things up. Alt-J’s “Breezeblocks” layers and strips instruments throughout the track to give it an interesting pace, one that keeps the listener from getting too used to a certain sound. The first 10 seconds start with just guitar and crooning vocals, but with the added beat and tempo change, I was hooked.

Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave, from which this track is from, was released last year as the band’s debut album. Coming from England, the four members met and formed the band at Leeds University in 2007. The album won the British Barclaycard Mercury Prize and was announced as BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year 2012. As a whole, their music covers a spectrum of genres, including indie rock, catchy pop, folk and hip-hop beats.

While Alt-J certainly has a fresh sound, especially in “Breezeblocks,” I wouldn’t proclaim them as notable innovators of music or the next Radiohead, as others have. My favorite line from their Pitchfork album review has to be “Sometimes they sound like Bombay Bicycle Club playing in a submarine.” But isn’t that great in its own way? “Breezeblocks” has more spunk than I’d give to I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose.

Admittedly, like the rest of the album, the lyrics don’t amount to much. I’d like to think they’re more of a jumbled stream-of-consciousness procuration of a feeling: the desperate mix of affection and aggression. Phrases of physical violence like “She bruises coughs, she splutters pistol shots” have a nice, chilling contrast against the softer cooes of “My love, love, love” at the end of each verse. I think it’s best illuminated in the layered build up of “Please don’t go,” “I love you so,” “Please break my heart” and “I’ll eat you whole” at the very end of the track.

One of the greatest things about this track, however, is the music video. I am an avid fan of worthwhile music videos, and boy, is this one worth watching. Directed by Ellis Bahl, it nicely plays on the song’s theme of love and hostility with a slow-motion playback of a fight between a man and a woman. Watch the whole thing through; it has a fantastic plot twist for a three-minute video.