Alt-J – “Left Hand Free”

By Chris DeVille / July 7, 2014

Hunger Of The Pine,” our first preview of alt-J’s sophomore effort This Is All Yours, was a relatively progressive musical gesture — an eerie slow-build that climaxed with the awkward yet oddly effective deployment of a Miley Cyrus sample. “Left Hand Free” is the second song they’ve released from the album (and the first official single, because that’s how album roll-outs seem to work these days), and it veers so far in the opposite direction that you might mistake it for something on classic rock radio. Listen to it below.

The Guardian reveals how this unlikely song came about:

Not everyone was so thrilled about Hunger Of The Pine. Another hazard of success is that the suits start sticking their oars in, and Alt-J’s American label didn’t view the song as a “big single”, apparently ignoring the fact that An Awesome Wave did pretty well without one. Hackles (mildly) raised, Alt-J resolved to write “the least Alt-J song ever”, taking a “joke riff” Joe had been playing in rehearsals and fleshing it out with the most perfunctory chords and rhythm imaginable. Whereas the band typically spend weeks agonising over every note, Left Hand Free was written “in about 20 minutes”. Needless to say, the US label loved it.

Thom: “I tried to make the drums as cliched as possible, there’s none of my personality in it.”

Gus: “I’m doing some kind of organ solo. I don’t know where ‘baby’ came from.”

Joe: “And I say, ‘Gee whizz,’ which I’m not sure is a phrase I’ve ever uttered before. I can imagine it appealing to American truckers with Good Riddance To Bin Laden stickers!”

“Oh God…” says Gus, a worrying realisation dawning. “Someone’s going to walk onstage to it at an NRA convention.”

In truth, Left Hand Free sounds rather more like Odelay-era Beck than Ted Nugent, but it’s undeniably catchy. If it turns Alt-J into accidental one-hit wonders in the red states, then they’re ready for it. Kind of.

“Let’s see if it becomes a hit first,” cautions Gus. “We might be no-hit wonders.”

This Is All Yours is out 9/23 via Canvasback/Infectious. Pre-order it here.