Sowing’s Songs of the Decade #37

Published: May 09, 2019

Alt-J – “3WW”

Every time I listen to “3WW”, I find myself drifting off into the same imaginary realm. I’m sitting by a large bonfire in the woods – an atmosphere alight with swirling shades of orange and purple – as sparks fly up towards the hazy evening sky and then lazily descend towards the earth, like tiny parachuting stars. The crackle of burning wood permeates the night air – this cool, crisp inhale of purity. It’s a feeling so vivid and proximate that it’s impossible not to become immersed; a touchable, palatable instance of emotional transportation – like camping out in another galaxy.

In a more literal sense, “3WW” is just a downright captivating piece of lo-fi indie rock.  Commencing with a thumping backbeat, gentle guitar plucks, and handclaps, it feels mysterious and warmly inviting all at the same time.  Joe Newman’s vocals have never been the driving point of this band, but here they are intertwined with Ellie Roswell’s (of Wolf Alice) which results in some beautiful chemistry akin to “Warm Foothills”, where English folk singers Lianne La Havas and Marika Hackman traded off every other word with Newman as part of a remarkable duet.  At its core “3WW” feels like art-rock, or art-pop depending on your perspective.  It seems to live in a giant metaphor – the title referencing the “three worn words” lyric which alludes to the phrase I love you, for which Newman and Roswell proclaim together, “I just want to love you in my own language.”  At one point, the crackling of a fireplace can be heard just beyond the melodic forefront.  Less than a minute later, you can hear distant laughter.   It’s all rather intimate, but not without the classic Alt-J air of mystique.

What a gorgeous, transcendent piece of experimentation.

Read more from this decade at my homepage for Sowing’s Songs of the Decade.

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