Alt-J: The Dream- Track by track review

Here are our thoughts on alt-J's new album The Dream.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 14th Feb 2022

The Dream is Alt-J's fourth studio album and one which sees them striking out for a new sense of experimentation within a discography that has never seemed to sit still anyway. With absurd lyrics being one of their calling cards, on their new album, they've pivoted towards a more personal approach on a couple of tracks.

Writing during Covid, the pandemic gave the band a chance to regroup and allow themselves to become invigorated. Here we'll give you a track by track guide to Alt-J's latest album The Dream.




Starting with the refreshing sigh of taking a swill from a can, Bane breaks out into twinkling guitar progressions and gently oscillating synths. The lyrics are chanted in an almost ritual-like fashion before crashing down to Earth. We're met with singer Joe Newman's uncanny altered vocals on a song that has so many twists and turns. Can you tell what the narrative is? Not really (apparently it's about a dream involving cola and a swimming pool) but that's never been imperative with Alt-J, just sit back and enjoy the ride.




The first single that the band released when they came back in 2021, this melodic ode is the ultimate relaxer. A clatter of stumbling percussion is interrupted by infrequent visits from the sound of skateboards as Joe sings of kimonos and strutting like Stellan Skarsgard. 



Hard Drive Gold

Crypto! It's all the rage at the moment and here we follow a kid who has struck gold, making it big by trading crypto online and dancing with his riches. Leaving school behind Alt-J encourage him "Don't be afraid to make money boy". A track that strides along confidently with large yelps, slides of keyboard notes and plenty of strange vocalisations, with Joe producing a loud yelp when pronouncing "fire!!"



Happier When Your Gone

A song that alternates between string sections, vocals that almost cross over into choir territory and the spray of a light drizzle of rain, Alt-J are sounding a lot more sombre here. Towards the end of the track vocals all blend into one to make it into a more euphoric listen, the song completely hooking you in,



The Actor

The thud of the percussion hits hard here. It's full of everything that you expect from Alt-J, lots of wonky tones and experimentation. Yet it reminds you of the band's renewed sense of vigour, the attitude to try new things and see where they take you. It's a DNA that makes for a unique footprint of a band and The Actor offers a lot of gorgeous highs.



Get Better

A song that is very immediate for an Alt-J song, it focuses on the recent crisis that the NHS has faced. Doubling up as an ode to the closeness of a relationship, it discusses taking care of someone and the role of those who help it to happen. "They risk all to be there for us" Joe sings amongst guitar strings so quiet it is as if they're trying not to disturb someone.




With an enchanting mix of guitar strings and synths doing cartwheels, this track is meditative before building up to a pitch high that changes the dynamic completely into a mixture of deep bass and a sudden sense of creeping tension. Alt-J flip the script halfway through. 





The string instruments are back in this track that mixes up dramatic flair with samples of operatic vocals and lyrics that are full of desire. It's a track that can feel a bit disjointed at times yet there are pleasant moments to be found in the joy of the crisp production and the seamless transitions.



Walk A Mile

Starting with plenty of empty space, we hear Joe's voice slowly become accompanied by more voices, the gentle handover of soft guitar riffs and reclined playing of the drums. A more progressive listen, the track evolves over time with both rhythm changes and more subtle introductions slowly bleeding in and out. 




A quick track that feels more like an interlude that centres around Joe's vocals and the harmonies that arise as he ups his pitch.



Losing My Mind


A song that quickly dives into tragedy as 15 missing boys are mentioned, the song suitable produces a guitar tone that feels like a lingering shadow as it splays itself across the track. Describing a sense of dissipating sanity, Joe begins to feel completely lost as an almost angelic piano sound appears. 




This song feels immediately intimate as the band begin with a laugh, then they head straight into what is one of the most instantly disarming tracks on the album that just glides along so satisfyingly. It glides along on the narrative of a relationship starting and then blossoming even further. An almost teary-eyed ending.



In conclusion, Alt-J's The Dream is the sound of a band who have come back strongly after their last album hit a bit of a stumbling block. With time away from each other, the band have come back together again with a renewed energy that has led to even more intricate experimentation and a more personal approach to their lyricism than ever before.



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