by David Anthony (@DBAnthony)
Alex Giannascoli is an artist who has—at least outwardly—seemed to work best in isolation. Working under the name Alex G—before recently updating it to (Sandy) Alex G—Giannascoli’s music was created, almost always, on his lonesome. He dashed out records on Bandcamp with no audience in mind, and no guarantee that one would ever come. But slowly people started paying attention. Each release showcased a different side of Giannascoli, and even though he was always keeping his feet planted in the tradition of pop songcraft, he’d distort it with layers of effects until this one-person project felt bigger than most full-fledged bands.
But with Rocket, this new moniker feels indicative of him no longer going it alone. Though it’s an adaptation of his long-used Twitter handle, this time around, Giannascoli has opened himself to outside collaboration, and though it’s very easy to see his fingerprints all over Rocket, (Sandy) Alex G feels like a band instead of just one wunderkind. While it’s been billed as Giannascoli’s country album—what with the fiddle-laden “Bobby” being one of the album’s lead singles, and “Powerful Man” having a dusty, acoustic guitar serving as the backing of a story-song about a friend getting sent to prison—it’s just as multidirectional as the albums that preceded it.
“Sportstar” is the song that will ensure every review of Rocket is forever linked to Frank Ocean, not just because of Giannascoli’s collaboration with him, but because the track sounds like a Blonde B-side. Yet “Sportstar,” for all its smooth, R&B crooning, is still a (Sandy) Alex G song. It may be easy to see the influence of a superstar like Ocean on Giannascoli, but that presupposes that the song’s pitch-shifted vocals and forlorn-yet-danceable construction was out of his reach. And as Rocket displays so simply, there’s little Giannascoli can’t pull off. “Brick” is a swirling industrial-meets-hardcore track, sounding a bit like if Prodigy was covering Cro-Mags, a claustrophobic noise piece placed dead center in the album’s tracklist.
Yet these types of diversions are becoming the defining characteristics of (Sandy) Alex G. It’s impossible to predict what will happen once you click play on one of his albums, as a variety of sounds come spilling out of the speakers, leaving you breathless between tracks. At once, Rocket isn’t really like any other album in Giannascoli’s catalog—but what two releases sounded alike in the first place?