Alexander Giannascoli (Alex G) burst onto the scene in 2014 following the release of his critically acclaimed self-released album “DUS”. Since his rise to cult fame, Alex G (also known as ‘(Sandy) Alex G’) has released two albums: ‘Beach Music’, and now ‘Rocket’.
Alex G’s official recording title, ‘(Sandy) Alex G’ is a result of a recent trademark. In December 2015, a Youtube musician trademarked the name and since, Giannascoli has adopted his typical online tag ‘Sandy’, now choosing to introduce himself as a combination of his two previous names.
Giannascoli’s worked is frequently characterized as lo-fi indie rock. Part of the reason for Giannascoli’s lo-fi recording style was almost certainly a lack of resources. Preceding his feature in many magazines’ ‘Best Album of 2014’ (including Vogue and Timeout), Alex G was releasing records on Bandcamp. His scope for high-end recording was severely limited. Just as Daniel Johnston was recording on cassette tapes, Alex G was recording and mixing on his laptop. Hence, it’s no surprise that Alex G’s latest album, ‘Rocket’ is his most technologically sophisticated thus far.
No longer recording solely on a copy of ‘Garage Band 6’, Alex G manages to mix his usual guitar style of off-beat strumming and mismatched melodies with a larger production. Introducing new instruments such as a banjo and a violin (or fiddle, perhaps?) on tracks such as ‘Bobby’, Alex G introduces a new dynamic to his music: no longer sounding like home recordings, Alex G hauls his music out of the internet scene and onto the professional music stage.
Recent reviews of Giannascoli’s work have varied in opinion. Whilst the Guardian dubs it “disappointing”, Pitchfork have given it a massive score of 8.4. This disagreement in understandable. Rocket’s track listing at first comes off as disjointed, with an odd switch from G’s usual indie style into an almost Primal Scream-esque deep house track in ‘Brick’ and then, a few tracks later, into the uncharted territory of country-folk with ‘Powerful Man’. An unusual progression for any musician, Alex G has taken a big risk experimenting so heavily on just his second professional released album. Reluctantly, though, I would have to agree with Pitchfork on their review of this release: Alex G has produced his best album with ‘Rocket’, and the experimentation is a significant factor in this success.
Switching of styles was vital in this album. Whilst Alex G is most at home producing his trademark indie-rock tracks, he runs the risk of producing an album of tracks indistinguishable from one another, as seen with artists such as Frankie Cosmos, or Mathew E White. ‘Brick‘ is a perfect interlude to his usual style, and his success in producing such a track is an ode to his ability. Similarly, a subtle shift in style between the likes of ‘Powerful Man’ and ‘Alina‘, from indie-rock to country-folk is enough to minimize the similarities in successive tracks. The best tracks on the albums are those written in classic Giannascoli style, but their impact is assisted greatly by the introduction of new, novel, alternative styles on other tracks.
‘Sportstar’ sits in the middle of the listing, and succeeds in standing out the most, without being the best. Relying heavily on auto-tune, Alex G’s voice is transformed into what sounds like a completely new person. Accompanied by smooth guitar solos and a simple but catchy piano riff, the track manages to reclaim auto-tone from the mainstream charts musician and change it from a tool used to mask poor singing ability, into a musical technique in itself.
Whilst ‘Proud’ is most probably the best track on the album, and ‘Sportstar’ is the most notable track, a special mention should be given to the closing song: ‘Guilty’. Recorded with multi-layered voice, making it sound like a group choir performance at the end of a show, ‘Guilty’ is a feel-good track which allows the listener to forget the confusion felt with the track listing (on first listen – the confusion lessens with each listen) and leaves a positive impression. If anything proves that Domino and Alex G aren’t incredibly naive when it comes to track listings after the earlier order, this is it.
Artist: (Sandy) Alex G
Label: Domino Recording Company
Release date: May 19, 2017
Play time: 41 mins
Standout track: Proud