(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket

by Kenzie Fitzpatrick Rating:9 Release Date:2017-05-19

If you’re still unfamiliar with the Internet’s Secret Best Songwriter in 2017, I’m sad for you. (Sandy) Alex G (fka Alex G) has been around for a long time. Much like Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, Alex Giannascoli began self-releasing music by way of uploading his lo-fi, bedroom recordings straight to Bandcamp. His first studio record, DSU, was released by Orchid Tapes in 2014 to much acclaim. Since then, he’s signed to Domino Records, released 2015’s fantastic Beach Music, and collaborated with the one-and-only Frank Ocean on more than one occasion. That’s a pretty big (read: huge) fucking deal. (Yes, the expletive was necessary.)

(Sandy) Alex G’s eighth full-length album, Rocket, opens with the fleeting ‘Poison Root’. It skips by in a frantic flurry of banjo, acoustic guitar, and violin – content not to stick around longer than a moment. “Now I know everything,” Giannascoli chants in a most unsettling fashion. Although it's one of the shorter, more simplistic offerings on the album, it's accessible and easy to fall for. ‘Poison Root’ sets the stage for the remainder of Rocket, which depicts numerous different characters and their diverse encounters. In classic Morrissey fashion, Alex Giannascoli describes his characters’ stories in a vague manner – allowing listeners to interpret each song for themselves, coloring each one with their own unique perspectives. While in some cases such ambiguity can be frustrating, it works for Giannascoli.

‘Proud’ is a light and catchy number in which the main character uplifts the subject: “I’m so proud of you,” only to tear them down, “I wanna be a fake like you” moments later. ‘County’ is a laid-back, jazz-inspired track on which two of Giannascoli’s collaborators, Sam Acchione and John Heywood, both contribute enticing solos. With its pitched up vocals, it’s as classic (Sandy) Alex G fare as any.

One of Rocket’s highlights is the exquisite ‘Bobby.’ It’s one of Giannascoli’s most beautiful songs to date. Thanks in part to two of the other collaborators on the album, Emily Yacina and Molly Germer. Emily lends her voice – which complements Alex’s flawlessly; While Molly’s violin playing adds another layer to the instrumentation throughout Rocket. There’s an added depth to each song that's not quite present in some of Giannascoli’s earlier work. ‘Bobby’ glides by with a country-tinged edge unlike any other (Sandy) Alex G song.

‘Horse’ and ‘Brick’ are the harshest among Rocket’s fourteen tracks. They hit (pun intended), like a brick, and clash with the tone/mood established over the course of the first five songs. As such, they feel wholly out of place. I’d even go so far as to say that the album would be better overall without them. However, the trance-inducing ‘Sportstar’, with its funky piano lead and entertaining use of autotune is next up, poised and ready to pull listeners back in. “I’ll say what I want to say,” Giannascoli sings. It almost feels like, within the larger context of the album, the placement of ‘Sportstar’ was deliberate. It’s a sneer in song form.

Towards the close of the album, the violin in ‘Powerful Man’ invokes a sense of melancholy, while the jazzy bassline, saxophone, and group vocals on album closer, ‘Guilty,’ provide a fun and amusing end to Rocket. If there’s any consistency in Giannascoli’s ever-growing catalog, it’s in the unpredictable nature of his musical output. It’s hard to be disappointed by something when you have no idea what to expect. And that’s half the fun. The other half, of course, is listening to albums like Rocket.

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