Single Review: ‘3WW’ by alt-J

Written by on March 12, 2017

Title: 3WW
Artist: alt-J
Record Label: Infectious Music
Release Date: March 6, 2017


On the third day of the third month of 2017, alt-J teased a new tune on their YouTube page. Three days later, they released that song, “3WW,” and announced that their forthcoming third album Relaxer would arrive three months and three days later. “3WW” includes three verses sung by three different vocalists. Apparently the band likes the number three.

The music itself is similar in many ways to alt-J’s past work- organic-sounding indie rock that embraces electronics and quirky embellishments. “3WW” is built around two simple guitar lines that repeat throughout the song, accompanied by light percussion and occasional keyboards. It’s a minimal instrumental, but it fits the song’s pastoral vibe nicely. There are times when the band tries to draw attention to the lyrics, such as when, in the first verse, all goes silent except for vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton’s lyrics.

And those lyrics are worthy of note, as Unger-Hamilton, Joe Newman and Ellie Rowsell spin a yarn about some “wayward lad” who travels to the countryside to sleep beneath the stars. There, he meets “two thirsty girls from Hornsea,” and the three of them “sleep” beneath the stars, if you know what I mean. It’s the type of story that would ordinarily make for a properly cringey song, but alt-J puts a thoughtful-enough spin on the topic that it’s listenable. In the chorus, when the lad says “these three worn words” (I love you), he realizes they’ve been stripped of their significance. So it’s not pure raunch.

Overall, “3WW” is a good song- well thought out, well put together, and sufficiently pretty. But it is too awkward to recommend to a friend, and something about the sudden dynamic changes in the chorus bothers me.  I’ll give it a low 4.

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