In an interview with Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner said that the album title was inspired by the Velvet Underground's 1985 compilation album VU: "I actually stole it from the Velvet Underground, I'll just confess that now and get it out of the way. The 'VU' record, obviously". He went on to say: "Did we cop out? Yeah! Summat about it feels like this record is exactly where we should be right now. So it felt right to just initial it."
Turner later revealed that the band had nearly titled the album The New Black, after a guitar amp they used in the recording process: "I got this old Rickenbacker thing that we recorded a lot through. There's no knobs, just two holes. And this little black amp that became known as The New Black. Crossed me mind to call the album that."
Speaking about Josh Homme's contribution to AM with Zane Lowe, Turner said: "The Josh thing was very much a case of one of us returning a back scratch to the other", referring to his appearance as a guest vocalist on the Queens of the Stone Age album ...Like Clockwork earlier in 2013. Turner continued: "He came down and sort of got us out of a little rut. It's just fun, it's friends, extended family now – [they] came round, had a fun night. His contribution to our record is really exciting, it's probably my favourite. The 30 seconds that he's in there is just, I dunno, it's like something that I've never heard before. Not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but you know what I'm saying." In an interview with 24sata, Turner mentioned that Homme would appear in the song "Knee Socks".
On 4 July 2013, Homme mentioned AM at the Rock for People festival in the Czech Republic: "I sang on the new Arctic Monkeys record. It's a really cool, sexy after-midnight record. It's called AM, so I guess that's really obvious. And it's really good. It's really good. It's not disco [as such], but it's like a modern, dancefloor sexy record. It's really good."
The album draws inspiration from various musical genres, including psychedelic rock, blues rock, hard rock, heavy metal, desert rock, R&B, soul, and hip hop. Alex Turner described the album as sounding "like a Dr. Dre beat, but we've given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster", adding that it "sound less like four lads playing in a room this time. Essentially, that's what it is, but if you can find a way to manipulate the instruments or the sounds to the point where it sounds a bit like a hip-hop beat that'd be boss in your car, then I think there's something quite cool about that." Turner also cited Outkast, Aaliyah, and Black Sabbath as influences. Guitarist Jamie Cook also cited The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars as an inspiration for the album, saying that it was one of the only albums they listened to while recording AM.
Arctic Monkeys took a different approach to recording AM in comparison to their previous album, Suck It and See, with Alex Turner stating that it is much more a "studio album". The band incorporated new instruments to record the album; they used keyboards such as piano, organ, and celeste, a Hohner Guitaret, and a vintage drum machine. Recording was done differently as well; producer James Ford stated that, instead of the "live" recording technique of the previous album, this album was recorded mainly with bass guitar and drums laid down first with emphasis on groove. Helder's drum kit was often set up in unconventional ways to achieve different sounds. Guest musicians Josh Homme, Bill Ryder-Jones, and Pete Thomas were featured on the album.
The AM Tour—with over 150 concert dates in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand—was held to promote the album. It started on 22 May 2013 in Ventura, California. The next year, the band shared a short documentary film via their YouTube channel to mark the end of the tour in its South American leg, featuring a performance of "R U Mine?" at its final date on 15 November 2014, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On 15 July 2013, the album cover artwork was revealed. On 2 September 2013, Arctic Monkeys revealed a track titled "I Want It All" during a XFM radio show, and exclusively played "One for the Road" on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show.
The waveform depicted is characteristic of an amplitude modulated (AM) signal.
Arctic Monkeys were scheduled to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 9 October 2013, but had to cancel as Kimmel's guest, rapper Kanye West, talked for too long. The band performed "Do I Wanna Know?" and "R U Mine?" on the show's outdoor stage a week later, on 16 October 2013.
The first single from the album, "R U Mine?", was released digitally on 27 February 2012. On 21 April 2012, it was released physically for the Record Store Day as a limited edition double A-side purple 7" vinyl. "R U Mine?" was released as a single on 2 March 2012.
"Do I Wanna Know?", the second single from the album, was released on 19 June 2013. The song has received a decent amount of airplay, including joining BBC Radio 1's "B List", and later moving to the "A List". It was certified Silver in the UK, indicating an excess of 200,000 sales (becoming the fourth Arctic Monkeys single to do so), and has also been fairly successful internationally.
The third single from AM, "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", was released on 11 August 2013 as a single, together with an accompanying music video. The song was leaked online on 29 July 2013, but quickly taken down. The song debuted at number eight in the UK Singles Chart, becoming Arctic Monkeys' first top 10 single since "Fluorescent Adolescent" (2007).
The fourth single to promote the album, "One for the Road", was released as a digital download and 7" vinyl on 9 December 2013.
On 28 January 2014, "Arabella" was released to radio in Italy; the same month, the band confirmed that it would be released as the fifth single on 10 March 2014 in the United Kingdom. It impacted contemporary hit radio on the scheduled date, though a planned 7" vinyl release was cancelled.
"Snap Out of It" impacted contemporary hit radio in the United Kingdom on 9 June 2014 as the album's sixth single.
AM has received critical acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81, based on 36 reviews. Simon Harper of Clash magazine states: "Welding inspiration from hip-hop greats with rock's titans, AM is built upon portentous beats that are dark and intimidating, yet wickedly thrilling." Ray Rahman of Entertainment Weekly gave it an 'A-', and opined that "AM mixes Velvet Underground melodies, Black Sabbath riffs, and playful grooves, and has fun doing it." Time Out said of the album: "One of Britain's greatest bands just got greater in an unexpected but hugely welcome way. Single men, I urge you: put down FHM and pick up AM." In their 10/10 review, NME wrote that AM is "absolutely and unarguably the greatest record of their career." In his 8/10 review, J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters praised Turner for being "at his most poetic to date", and called the album "a wonderfully cohesive and diverse album that fits together incredibly well." Tim Jonze of The Guardian noted that the album "manages to connect those different directions – the muscular riffs of Humbug and the wistful pop of Suck It and See – with the bristling energy and sense of fun that propelled their initial recordings." Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal called AM "paranoid and haunted." In his review of the album, Matt Mason of Q gave it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote:
Not afraid to explore but never radical for the sake of it, the Arctic Monkeys have delivered another triumph. Some of their iridescent energy has been tempered by age, but it's been replaced by the craft and confidence that made their [2013's] Glastonbury set so compelling. Not for the first time, they sound like the best band in Britain.
At the 2013 NME Awards, Arctic Monkeys were nominated for Best British Band. "R U Mine?" was also nominated for Best Track, and won the award for Best Music Video. AM was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize for best album, becoming Arctic Monkeys third album to receive the nomination, after their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, and its follow-up, Favourite Worst Nightmare. The album's second single, "Do I Wanna Know?", won the Best Track award at the 2013 Q Awards. "Do I Wanna Know" was also nominated as the "Best Rock Performance" at the 2015 Grammy Awards. At the 2014 BRIT Awards, Arctic Monkeys won in the British Album of the Year and British Group categories, becoming the first band to ever "do the double" (that is, win in both categories) three times (Coldplay and Manic Street Preachers did it twice).
NME ranked AM number 449 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, after it only being out for a month. The magazine has also announced its list of 50 Best Albums of 2013, with AM taking the top spot: "AM felt like a genuine evolution for the Monkeys, and one that wasn't without risk. Its success, however, rested on the two things that had always made them special: Alex Turner's wry way with words, and his way with a tune. NME classified AM's songs as "the tales of wasted phone calls, drunken lunges and late-night confessions."
AM boasted an embarrassment of riches on both counts. AM is the album against which everything else will now be measured." 17 music journalists of the Polish media company Agora SA (Gazeta Wyborcza, Gazeta.pl, TOK FM) placed AM at number two in their ranking of 10 Best Foreign Albums of 2013, behind Arcade Fire's Reflektor.
AM was ranked #1 on NME magazine's list of the 50 Best Albums of 2013 on 26 November 2013.
On 15 September 2013, the album charted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, having sold 157,329 copies, thus becoming the second fastest-selling album of the year, behind Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. With the debut of AM on the chart, Arctic Monkeys also broke a record, becoming the first independent-label band to debut at number one in the UK with their first five albums. Following the band's win at the 2014 BRIT Awards, the album charted at number two on the chart, behind Bad Blood by Bastille, who also experienced the "BRITs effect".
AM peaked at number one in Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Croatia, Slovenia, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Portugal, and reached top ten positions in several other countries. In the United States, the album sold 42,000 copies in its first week, and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the band's highest charting album in the United States. In October 2014, AM was certified Gold by the RIAA, and has sold more than 500,000 copies in the US.
All lyrics written by Alex Turner, except where noted; all music composed by Arctic Monkeys.
Adapted from the AM liner notes.