From the Bedroom to the Big Leagues: Reflections on the release of Alex G’s Beach Music
Like most music blogs that cover indie rock, we’ve been keeping our eyes on Alex G for a little while now, and we’ve dug what we heard. The music grabbed us both initially, when Alex Giannascoli came on The Key’s radar back in summer of 2013, and as it progressed over several releases leading to the new LP Beach House, which is out tomorrow on Domino Records. (Listen to the whole thing streaming via Hype Machine here.)
This week we’re also seeing the fruits of Alex’s first proper press run, and it includes a generally positive assessment from the tastemakers over at Pitchfork. They gave the album a 7.2 rating and Pat Healey makes note that it’s definitely not a more evened-out, mainstreamized take on Alex’s aesthetic, featuring plenty of odd noises, pitch-shifted vocals and general uneasyness. They also note the album’s darkness:
It’s clear that a lot of nefarious characters are lurking in these songs. Giannascoli’s style has been compared to Elliott Smith in the past, and that’s often been true of his presentation, but on Beach Music, it’s as if the characters from Smith’s darker songs have wandered over to Giannascoli’s world, and they’re a lot worse for wear.
Healy also nicely summarizes the way Alex’s oddball minimalism can be so captivating. You listen and aren’t quite sure what’s going on, but you keep returning:
What is remarkable about Beach Music is that some of these arrangements beg for you to dismiss them, the way you might have the very first time you heard Pavement, but what at first feels sloppy and clogged is actually intricate upon closer inspection. Complicated arrangements and gorgeous melodies reveal themselves to you as rewards for your patience. Over time, even the alien voices begin to sound natural, even inviting.
A longer read, but equally worth your time, is an interview Giannascoli did with Geoff Nelson over at Consequence of Sound. Most Philly people who have met Alex will know that he’s, pretty much, just a dude – not some holier-than-thou rockstar elitist, he’s a friendly and often downright charming person to meet, he doesn’t seem overly preoccupied with explaining his art. That’s because he would prefer his art speak for itself, and he discusses with Nelson.
But he’s also reaching the point where he’s not making music for the purposes of pure creation – it’s his job now – and he’s feeling a disconnect, which is is very open and candid about:
“I think I’m starting to set the bar unrealistically high, and that’s starting to inhibit my music writing.”
He adds, “I just am not getting moved by music because my life is so saturated with music at the moment. It’s been hard to make something that I’m excited about. So that’s going to take some getting used to, as far as what my approach to making music is now.” [Susan] Busch [of Domino Records] is more optimistic. “Alex already fulfilled our expectations by making a great record. Now the goal is to make sure we’re able to get that record into the world and into the hands of fans, both new and old. There’s still a big world out there for Alex to explore.”
Alex is about to head out on a European tour in support of Beach Music and has a U.S. run planned for his return – he comes home to the First Unitarian Church on Saturday, November 14th, and tickets are available now. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.