Alex Giannascoli, known by his musical moniker (Sandy) Alex G, has proven himself through his previous eight albums to be a determined and enigmatic songwriter. The man is a chameleon, altering his voice and conviction to match the emotional intensity of each track.
His thematic use of electronic instrumentation, dissonance, ambiance and countless studio tricks have aligned in different ways to produce some of the unpredictable albums of the last five years.
Giannascoli has released nine albums in five years, and all this hard work seems to be building toward self-actualization. (Sandy) Alex G is already a very well-kept secret among the indie-rock music community, and one push could be what he needs to see the big-time. His new album, “House of Sugar” was released Sept. 13 and may very well serve as that little nudge off the cliff of obscurity and into the limelight.
“House of Sugar” presents itself as a soft side of (Sandy) Alex G’s personality. The album forgoes stability or consistency, meandering lightly so as not to kill the buzz.
Tracks like “Project 2” are loose collections of synth and drum machine samples that are so disorganized that they find sense in their chaos. It’s a Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” with a pop sensibility and 21st-century instruments.
Within this seemingly auto-randomized take on song structure heard throughout “House of Sugar,” (Sandy) Alex G focuses primarily on two elements – a single hook usually carried out by a guitar or vocals, and a persisting motion that creates a feeling of falling backward. The track “Taking” trips through odd and clashing time signatures, while guitar and vocals are literally played backward to send the listener on a journey through their own mind.
No track pulls off this balance between melodicism and transcendent chaos like the album’s opener “Walk Away.” The track maintains a measurable consistency through the driving acoustic percussion while the melody is delivered sweetly through a fitting sitar-like classical instrument. Unlike most popular music, “Walk Away” subverts attention from the vocals, which whir in and around the track as though Giannascoli is sifting the listener’s brain through space.
Not all songs on “House of Sugar” are quite as submerged in dark matter. “Gretel” is the album’s most straight-up pop-rock track, complete with light female backing vocals, acoustic guitar, and plinky mandolin. What makes the track great, however, is the whale-like droning in the back of the mix which rips away from the familiarity of the extremely catchy melody, “I don’t wanna go back/Nobody’s gonna push me off track/I see what they do/Good people got something to lose.”. The melody and the verse are moody juxtapositions of each other, but the smoother-than-hell transition between the two makes the song more than just a sum of its parts.
So here sits (Sandy) Alex G, at the top of his game and at the peak of his creative ambition. There have been very few artists who have set out to create such complicated music and succeeded like (Sandy) Alex G has on “House of Sugar.” It’s a testament to the creative freedom of his earlier work and will surely stand as one of his best years in the future.