This Alex G article was writing by Daniel Kirby, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Jones
Alex G was described as “the internet’s secret best songwriter” just prior to the release of his 2014 label debut ‘DSU’. His homespun lo-fi guitar-pop wouldn’t remain a secret for very long though; receiving a host of positive reviews, as well as appearing on a number of end-of-year lists. Even before he was exposed to a wider audience, he had already released five albums via Bandcamp. His prolific and consistent output came to the attention of Orchid Tapes artist Mat Cothran (of Coma Cinema) in 2012. He signed with the small Brooklyn-based indie label the following year.
Cothran seems to have a good ear for talent but smaller labels often struggle to hold on to their more popular artists. So it was with Alex G, who was offered a deal with Domino after the success of ‘DSU’. Being someone who’s quite reluctant to give up any control of his music to others it would be interesting to see if he would change his approach after signing to a bigger label.
‘Beach Music’ is the first time he’s allowed anyone else in on the process, with Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist, Jake Portrait, mixing the album. Other than that, the real changes seem to have taken place during the recording process, which took longer than usual because of his touring schedule. This also meant that these songs were written and recorded in different locations while on the road, rather than in his apartment, making for a more varied set of songs than on previous releases.
There’s the more straightforward and familiar sounding ‘Bug’, with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars. The oft-cited Elliott Smith comparison is certainly justified on the wistful ‘Thorns’, with its fragile vocals and layered guitar arpeggios. There’s the 90s influenced rock of ‘Kicker’ with its Pavement-like groove. Then there’s the more acoustic-led numbers, like ‘Ready’ and its melodic Americana or the vibrantly jangly closer, ‘Snot’. ‘Beach Music’ also finds Alex G in a more experimental mood. The back-to-back tracks, ‘Salt’ and ‘Look Out’ see him moving into warped dream-pop territory. He takes this experimentation even further on the jazzier ‘In Love’, featuring one of many different vocal styles, as well as incorporating piano and trumpet.
While Alex G’s 90s lo-fi influences are there for all to hear, it’s the way that he constructs his songs that makes him stand out from other artists. His disjointed guitar work, layers of melodic detail, choice of drum patterns, vocal changes and manipulations are all brought together in ways which keep things consistently interesting. ‘Beach Music’ doesn’t quite reach the heights of ‘DSU’, but it comes pretty damn close.