by: Julia Leiby
Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) makes music that grows on you and melodies that worm their way into your head and your life. The prolific songwriter, who up until recently (2014’s DSU was the first professionally released) put out his many records on Bandcamp, recording them himself on garageband, signed with Domino Records and is now a household-name in the indie world. Beach Music, released on October 9th, features artwork from Giannscoli’s sister Rachel who also photographed the cover for ‘Trick’, an album from November 2012 and a fan favorite. Trick, DSU, and Beach Music all feature backup vocals from Emily Yacina, a friend and frequent collaborator with Giannascoli and a potent new songwriter in her own right. Yacina, only a sophomore at The New School in NY, went to high school with Giannascoli (they met in art class) and lends her vocals on the standout track "Mud," which is one of the shortest yet sweetest on the album. Yacina and Giannascoli harmonize on peaceful but chilling lyrics, “I know something you don’t know/trouble comes into your home/wake up and you’re all alone”. It’s a moment of clarity on a somewhat muddled and complex album that spans feelings of dread, attempted intimacy, and melancholia.
The fifth song, "Salt," which was once a bare-bones and spare guitar track on an unreleased EP of the same name, is now a tune unlike anything Giannascoli has released before. It’s a synth-y, jammy pop song that is unexpectedly buoyant and catchy despite its dark lyrics. Giannascoli recently did an AMA on Reddit and on "Salt," he explains that he changed the lyrics from “I want to die” to “I want to fry” and said it was “cause [sic] I didnt [sic] want my mom to hear that lyric and get sad”. One can often forget that Giannascoli is only 22 and might take things like his mother’s opinion of his music into account. In the AMA Giannascoli also cited Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Cormac McCarthy as some of his favorite authors. Marquez and McCarthy both spin grim but magical realities, just as Giannascoli does in Beach Music. Another standout on the record is “Bug”, the first single, where Giannascoli’s voice is warped into a shrill high pitch as the song reaches its climax and he shrilly belts out “bug in the crosshair”.
Though the album features many pitch shifts throughout, on "Brite Boy" and most notably on "Station" where Giannascoli’s sounds are warped and slowed to a slurred and blurry, almost drunken croon, Giannscoli keeps the lyrical content and contemplative mood of the album consistent. "Ready" sounds like it could be an early 2000s Elliott Smith B-side, with it’s jangly, poppy but downbeat guitar tone. In "Ready," he describes knowing someone intimately and what’s troubling them, “on your street / in your pause between sentences / I can tell what’s hangin around”. Though Alex G’s lyrics are often cryptic, painting only faint sketches of scenes and characters, what details he does provide are evocative, telling a story and creating a feeling with only a few words. Though Giannascoli has transitioned to a major label and is increasingly in the indie limelight, his music remains steadfastly dark and rich, enveloping listeners in a solitary and reflective secret space.