In 2012, alt-J made its debut with An Awesome Wave, and every one of those 13 songs would slay me. Now the band has returned with another shifting and intrepid sonic adventure, "Hunger of the Pine," which will appear on alt-J's second album, This Is All Yours, out on Sept. 22.
Fans of alt-J, including myself, were curious how the band would sound as a trio now that bassist Gwil Sainsbury left. It was a friendly departure. Keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton told us via email that "Having to write songs as a trio rather than a foursome was a daunting prospect for us at first, but coming up with this song reassured us that — for want of a better phrase — we were going to be OK."
The song, which features a sample of Miley Cyrus singing "I'm a female rebel" from her song "4x4," is, according to Gus Unger-Hamilton, "composed entirely of new and spontaneous ideas that arose during writing sessions for the second album. It was written very quickly using some guitar chords and sounds being layered on Ableton, and seemed to signal a bit of a new sound for us. The lyrics mainly suggest the idea that missing someone — pining — can be a physical pain much like hunger."
A couple weeks ago, our own Nick Brunner, host of Blue Dog Jam, found a remarkable connection with this band from Leeds.
Some of you may know, Mr. Brunner took in the famous midtown fat cat, Norm Lopez. Norm is some-what of a fixture on a certain block of midtown. Pedestrians stop and pet the giant feline and marvel at his mass.
One day Brunner and Norm took a trip to the Sacramento Library for its summer reading program.
The program director was wearing a beautifully screen printed shirt of Norm. Brunner had never seen it before (and he's seen a few).
"The picture was of him sitting in front of the stoop outside my apartment - in his usualy splayed out pose," said Brunner. "There's no mistaking Norm."
He asked where she got the shirt, and she said she bought it from alt-J when they played in Sacramento.
It's true, you can buy your very own alt-J/Norm the Cat shirts in their official store.
The band's press contact said the band saw the cat when they were in town for a show last year and they liked the picture so they made a shirt out of it. It's as simple as that.
Nick Brunner, Norm Lopez, and fellow library patron Becca Costello, at the library.
Here's a video of Norm's original owner, Tyler Lopez, talking about the 28lb cat's rise to fame.