Some artists are best suited to certain seasons, and ‘tis the season for Alt-J. The cold, grey, ominous days of autumn are the seasonal equivalent of Alt-J’s eerie, haunted music. Alt-J is enjoyed best while inside watching the shadows of branches dancing beyond your bedroom curtains, the windows and doors shut tight, candles flickering and – in the case of this specific song – with another warm body.
“Every Other Freckle” is the third single from Alt-J’s new album This Is All Yours, and like the best songs from their debut, 2013’s An Awesome Wave, it finds the band treading a fine line between spooky and overtly sexy. The result: something that vaguely disturbs while at the same time feels oddly intimate.
When I first listened to Alt-J, I didn’t like them. I had a negative, almost visceral reaction to the weird, unexpected turns they take musically, and even more to their lyrics and vocals. There was something creeping, almost violating about frontman Joe Newman’s voice… and the words he chose to use. An excellent example from this song: “I’m going to bed into you like a cat beds into a bean bag – turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet.”
Listen to the way he sings “lick you like a crisp packet.” It’s uncomfortable. It’s leering. It’s lecherous. It’s as if he can see through your clothes or something. It feels FAR too intimate. And it probably makes some people stop listening – but something kind of amazing happens if you power through that discomfort.
“Every Other Freckle” is, if you want to cut to the chase, a song about sex. But it’s more than that. It’s a song about intimacy. Insatiable desire. The wish to be even closer than sex allows – to devour, surround, absorb.
“I want to share your mouthful, I want to do those things that your lungs do so well” – to be so close you are breathing in and out together, taking over vital actions. “Let me be the wallpaper that papers up your room” — to surround completely. To go beyond comfort zones to places where you might at first feel embarrassed, awkward, uncomfortable. To do things that you’d think would make you blush – and then, once you do them – to find them thrilling.
(And then there are all the references to cats. Aside from the idea of a certain feline sensuality [think: catsuits, sleekness, slinkiness] – cats are, like all animals, governed by instinct. This desire is an animal instinct. The instinct to possess, to mark territory, to leave their scent.)
This isn’t a song about ~fucking~. This is a song about merging. About becoming each others’ full reality, overwhelming the senses, taking over and getting lost in another person — and getting that intimate, going to those dark, uncharted places – can be dangerous. The danger is underscored by the music, which is unpredictable and mysterious and heavy. You’re never sure where the melody will go next, or what elements will materialize… voices or handclaps or medieval sounding flutes or ominous synths.
When you get this close, you don’t know what you will find or where things might lead. So take your time. Draw the drapes, light the candles and devour each other. Find every other freckle.