Alt-J's New Song '3WW' Points Toward A Smoothed-Out Sound

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alt j relaxer album art
Cover art for Alt-j's third album 'Relaxer,' which will be available June 9, 2017. (Courtesy of the artist)

My favorite rock band, alt-J, has a pleasantly surprising piece of new music this morning — "3WW" comes from the band's third album, Relaxer, which they announced this morning and will be out June 9 on Canvasback Music. Unlike some of their brasher music, this song has the feel of a West African tune, with a gentle plucked sound that reminds me of an ngoni or kora.

Singer and guitarist Joe Newman told me, in an email this morning, that it's "a combination of three guitars — a Martin nylon guitar, a Taylor T5 electric acoustic and the original instrumentation from the demo which was a Fender Telecaster Deluxe — for that smooth, smooth finish."

Aside from the track's cool and round arc, another surprise is a new voice — Ellie Rowsell of the band Wolf Alice. As they sing both alternating and together it feels abstractly... erotic.

Well that smell of sex, good like burning wood

The wayward lad lay claim to two thirsty girls from Hornsea

Who left a note when morning came

Girls from the pool say 'Hi'

The road erodes at five feet a year along England's east coast line

Was this your first time?

Love is just a button we pressed last night by the camp fire


Oh these three worn words that you whisper

Like the rubbing hands of tourists in Verona

I just want to love you in my own language

The song twists and turns with ambient outdoor sounds, a soft piano and light, bottom-heavy percussion gluing it all together. The new sonic territory they've staked out here and the mystery in their lyrics just reminds me of why I love this band so much.