Song of the Day: Alt-J – Fitzpleasure

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Fitzpleasure” by Alt-J from the forthcoming album An Awesome Wave on Canvasback Music.

Alt-J – Fitzpleasure (MP3)

Alt-J… it’s the combination on a keyboard used to create the Greek symbol delta (∆), which in mathematics signifies uncertainty or change. On the surface, the idea of four lads from the U.K. playing arty pop might not itself to any kind of mystery, but the depths these former art and lit students reach on their debut, An Awesome Wave, will alter any beliefs you had about what can be done with “indie” music. Many critics and commentators themselves have been at a loss to describe their sound and resort to comparisons to a host of other experimentalists like Wild Beasts, The xx, and Radiohead, and to outrageous team-ups like “Nick Drake meets Gangsta Rap.” The band’s own improbable hybrid “folk-step” could be said to describe at least part of today’s featured song.

“Fitzpleasure,” the album’s most frenetic and even schizophrenic, jumps between Gregorian chant to Afropop-tinged dubstep to ethereal electronica yet never feels contrived. Lyrically, it’s nearly indecipherable, obscured by Joe Newman’s nasal falsetto vocals that recall tribal singers from nearly any continent in the Southern Hemisphere. Other songs on the album, like standouts “Tessellate” and “Breezeblocks,” reflect similarly imaginative arrangements and lyrics, often tapping into mixed cultural references, as does “Matilda,” an early single that draws from the 1994 Luc Besson film, Leon. The meaning of “Fitzpleasure” is less certain. Sonic references to African music are echoed in lines like “Little did I know that Mandela Boys would become Mandela Men,” and clearly the “tall woman” is both a dangerous and alluring (“Tall woman, pull the pylons down / And wrap them around the necks of all the feckless men that queue to be the next”). Whether “fitzpleasure” itself is something you want to partake, the song, in all its mystery and impassioned rage, is likely to be one of the best you’ll hear all year.

An Awesome Wave has actually already been released in the U.K., as of the end of May (on Infectious Music), but it will be out in the U.S. for the rest of us on September 18 via Canvasback Music. In anticipation of this release, Alt-J will conduct a limited tour of the U.S. in the first week of August. Though they won’t be coming up yet to Seattle, they will be live on KEXP from the Cutting Room Studios on August 7 at 9AM PST. Look for them touring worldwide soon enough, as this band will not be contained!

In the meantime, check out more music on their website and Facebook page. You can listen to the full album on Soundcloud and follow their

on Tumblr. For now, here’s the official video for “Breezeblocks”:

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  1. Dawn T
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    LOVE this song. Can’t get enuf of these guys.

  2. andy
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    amazing review, what a great song

  3. Brandon
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Much of the song is about a book called Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby.

  4. Allyn
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    In your snatch “fits pleasure” – “fitzpleasure” The meaning of “fitzpleasure” is just that simple. The meaning of the song is much more deep.

  5. Stacey
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Fitzpleasure has scarred me for life.
    I can’t listen to it without imagining the scenes described in Selby’s ‘Tralala’ chapter.

  6. Kaelan
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    This is the kind of music that we have been looking for. People say nothing new can be done…

  7. M. R.
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Fitzpleasure has a super-specific meaning. All comes from Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, where in a woman named Tralala gets gang-raped with a broom. Yeah. Harder to rock out to, now, but an intentional homage to a work of art the band admires, yeah?:

  8. stan lee knife
    Posted November 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Actually I think the line about “The Mandela Boys” refers to a gang in Southampton, their hometown.

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