Alex G Beach Music

[Domino; 2015]

Styles: indie, melancholy, pop
Others: Elliott Smith, R.L. Kelly, Emily Yacina

“Part of what he became didn’t fancy it up on land, and went back down there, and turned into porpoises and sharks, and manta rays, and whales, and you.”
– Edward Albee’s “Seascape”

“Find Your Beach”
– Corona Extra

Over the past five years, Alex G, real name Alex Giannascoli, has self-released several albums on his Bandcamp page (most of which are still up), slowly gathering a devout following of like-minded bands in the Philadelphia/Baltimore area and small tape labels like Orchid Tapes and the now-disgraced Birdtapes. With little to no presence online outside of his Bandcamp and little written about him elsewhere, Alex G’s path was calm, complementing the simple nature of his songs. Then around last year’s Orchid Tapes release of DSU, things picked up: the album sold out within hours, and before 2015 could get out of winter, he was signed to Domino Recording Company. The result is Giannascoli’s seventh album Beach Music, a decisive record that retains his candid melancholy and bleary, retreative tenor while progressing the pop-reflective song structure we’ve come to anticipate from the stable, forward climb of Alex G.

Like the overlying theme of college life in DSU, Beach Music summons warm, sandy images while its contents reveal a different beast. Where DSU cited the darker side of campus personalities and off-campus life, Beach Music is invaded with the troubles of leaving behind friends and family for the invasive, shitty aspects of touring. And like DSU’s “Harvey,” Beach Music’s first single “Bug” describes a tragic, repulsive personality. This time we’re introduced to an industry “yes man,” “a fuck brain just tryin to get himself paid,” as Alex G casts himself as a “bug in the crosshair” — an easy, squashable target. This moral contrast comes up again at the album’s tail end on “Station,” as three voices fall into each other, drowning each other out while recognizing the reason they’re all in it: to make a living. “If I could look past it, I’d be big and free.” “I got money and I got fame/ The only thing I don’t got is someone to blame.” The lines are two sides of the same coin, a flip for doubt or pomposity.

In contrast, Giannascoli’s life outside the sphere, away from home influences, streaks nude throughout. Calls like “don’t make me hurt you” on the reimagined version of “Salt” (previously found on his SALT EP) act as self-fixing pleas of a man fraught with uncertainties, with a hypnotizing vintage Yamaha keyboard drum machine patch playing underneath. “Brite Boy” is a call-and-response cry from an outsider waiting for the return of another. Emily Yacina (who also appears on DSU’s “Harvey,” “Hollow,” and “Skipper,” and Trick’s “Advice”) sings on “Mud,” a soft ballad for a bait’s prey, a figure behind the curtain in the same vain as Trick’s demonstrative “Kute.” Closer “Snot,” Beach Music’s quintessential Alex G song, features muffled lines like “I love him,” “666,” and “make me sick,” before riding off into the distance with lulled, confident guitar work, like a victor ready for another challenge.

Of all the possibilities after the success of DSU, the Lucky Number reissues (of Trick and Rules), and the massive media circus revolving around Beach Music, Alex G’s first major wax-plated step outside the bedroom is predictably secure. But it’s also exploratory of his changing landscape, one that’s situated like unauthorized speech-class notecards, articulating each situation and character but still allowing for cracks and incongruity. Luckily for us, we are left to its patchwork.

Links: Alex G - Domino

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