God Save the Animals
Experimental lo-fi singer, testy songwriter/guitarist, and home-recording indie rocker Alex G—f.k.a. (Sandy) Alex G, a.k.a. Alex Giannascoli—comes from my neck of the woods in Havertown, Pennsylvania, so there’s always some sort of kinship to be found amongst us Philly-and-burbs locals. I’m not always down with G’s love and obvious fandom for Elliott Smith, but as time moves forward, and he releases more music, that influence seems to be drifting into the haze. Which brings us to God Save the Animals, G’s most disjointed but direct-intent-filled work yet.
After the kinda-sorta studio recording of House of Sugar in 2019, G seems to have understood the benefits of crisply layered production and greater orchestration, as God Save the Animals has a density to its proceedings that previous albums lack—all while maintaining the quirk and intimacy of the bedsit recording proposition. Featuring a small band with an emphasis on unique string sounds ranging from banjo to violin, the new album is still creepy and hypnotic—maybe even more so than his past output—but also dynamic and flush with diversity and richly accented melodies.
While the acoustic-focused opener “After All” (featuring the FX-heavy vocals of Jessica Lea Mayfield) is spectral (as is the weary and quintessentially Pennsylvanian-woodsy “Miracles”), the drugs kick in and the layers take hold on the melodically scattered likes of “No Bitterness” and “Headroom Piano.” Balanced against the more tuneful likes of almost-anthemic lead single “Runner” and the jam-folk fade of closer “Forgive,” those tracks, along with the drastically manipulated likes of “Immunity” and the pitchy “Ain’t It Easy,” keep the listener off balance, while offering G’s lyrical take on God, monsters, and the joy and healing quality of animal life—even at times speaking in the perspective of (I think?) a dog on tracks such as “Mission” (“I did good, I stayed out of the kitchen / I did good, I kept it on track”) and “Cross the Sea” (“You see how I make you smile / You put your foot down and I run wild”).
Still gloriously wonky after all this time, Alex G is finding himself on firmer footing as a producer, lyricist, singer, and songwriter with God Save the Animals.