by Evan Welsh (@evanswelsh15)
Ever since Alex Giannascoli added the parenthetical name to his prolific DIY-bedroom project before the release of his 2017 album Rocket, it seems as though he has set forth on the project of creating art that can only really be categorized as his. On Rocket, and now House of Sugar, Giannascoli takes listeners exactly where he wants them to go—he is the one in charge and the option of listening to a (Sandy) Alex G song as just another haphazardly thrown together cut from a Bandcamp indie artist is no longer on the table. Amongst a sea of other things that this album unveils itself to be on different listens, House of Sugar is a shrine to indulgence that only rewards those who decide to take part in its unsuspecting lavishness.
In just under 40 minutes, Giannascoli has constructed something that feels incredibly vast and ready to explore. There is a remarkable amount to sink one’s teeth into here. Each track at once expresses themselves as Frankenstein-esque amalgamations of influence and intricately formed pop songs by an artist with a voice all unto themselves. Even when Giannascoli’s expressionistic sounds can come off initially opaque, there is an immensely accessible core to nearly all of House of Sugar.
The experimentation that was trojan horsed into the middle section of Rocket has begun seeping further into Giannascoli’s writing—House of Sugar, with the inclusion of some pure Americana cuts, is mostly defined by the clever mixing of that Americana aesthetic with the further-left-field sonic landscapes Alex seems so captivated by. House of Sugar still weaves in and out of musical style, enlisting different influences and interests where Giannascoli sees fit, but on the whole, the sonic patchwork of (Sandy) Alex G is being sinched ever tighter on this album, making it his most cohesive statement to date.
Moments of astounding beauty, and even optimism, pierce through the overall somber tone of the music and lyrics. Each of the four songs that open the album display this, as Giannascoli sings about overdosing and inescapable demons, with the chorus and climax of “Gretel” standing as the premier example of finding magnificence within worry and grief. As the album continues on its cyclical journey of hope and remorse, Giannascoli musically ventures further into worlds of electronics, which leads listeners into the whirling “Near,” the jittery instrumental, “Project 2,” and the emphatic “Bad Man.” The album reintroduces more air into the mix and returns to primarily organic sounds for its final act, which features a grouping of slower, balladic songs. After wandering in and out of solitude for its entirety, House of Sugar’s epilogue grants listeners some resolution in empathy and community with a live recording of the spectacular, radiant “SugarHouse.”
House of Sugar showcases Giannascoli’s most confident, most assured version of himself as a creator. His last two records don’t feel like they are necessarily massive jumps from one another; however, compared to the myriad releases that preceded his name change, House of Sugar is simply on a different plateau of artistry.
Throughout the album, Giannascoli waxes poetic in a rural crow about indulgence and consequence, and the wistfulness and regret that is inextricably linked with those things—ultimately, the feeling House of Sugar leaves listeners with is one of acceptance of their character, and all the broken and lost pieces from which it is composed.