(Sandy) Alex G
In the arena of bedroom recording savants, few have stuck the leap into daylight as sure-footedly as Philadelphia’s (Sandy) Alex G[iannascoli]. As a gushing torrent of recording technology has leveled what was once a niche playing field, no more do the manic Ariel Pink types need orally pop and tsk drum sounds into four-tracks, nor must they trail buzz bands toting plastic bags torn with burned CD-Rs. Since the crest of the misnomer that is lo-fi, ProTools and Bandcamp have respectively paved over the romanticized tedium of these warbling avenues.
From a sea of enthusiasts now armed with ubiquitous recording tools, Alex G—who is putting out his second album on mid-major Domino mere months after his twenty-fourth birthday—has risen. While his previous release, 2015’s Beach Music, favored the sporadic sketch orientation that was his M.O. on the numerous Bandcamp releases he spun up in his home before being picked up by Domino, Rocket sounds, at least in terms of production, like a cohesive studio effort. But it’s not. Like Beach Music, it was recorded by Giannascoli in his Philly apartment, assisted only by his friends. Its cover art even leverages a painting of a goat by Alex’s sister, Rachel. Which isn’t to say that the scope of Alex G is limited to his local scene: None other than Frank Ocean invited him to play guitar on two of 2016’s most high-profile releases, Endless and Blonde.
Rocket exemplifies its titular action by transcending the humility of its maker’s introverted demeanor and relatable voice—characteristics that function simultaneously as (Sandy) Alex G’s highest hurdles and the spikes he sports to quietly clear them. Giannascoli’s ready, able feel for melody and lyricism have been mixed to the forefront on cuts such as the wistful single “Proud.” True to character, however, he doesn’t hesitate to hurl curveballs: “Brick” and “Sportstar” are essentially rap-rock and R&B tracks, respectively, while the filtered vocals of “Witch” could pass for a restrained Avey Tare B-side.
“Restraint” is indeed an operative word in the case of Rocket; what’s perhaps most impressive about Giannascoli is that you hardly take notice as he stealthily impresses you. Opener “Poison Root” lends the record an ironic epigraph via his humble tenor: “Now I know everything.” Preposterous, sure, but this autodidactic artist does appear to be well on his way.