Alex G Finds Comfort in Confession on the Divine 'God Save the Animals'
Published Sep 20, 2022Most artists with nine full-length albums to their name have either settled into a comfortable groove or slowly fizzled out of relevancy — Alex Giannascoli has done neither. After independently recording five albums, plus mountains of "unofficial" EPs and random singles, the artist known as Alex G joined big-indie label Domino for 2015's Beach Music. Since then, the Philadelphia-based musician has managed to both become more experimental and drastically widen his fanbase despite starting out as a cult Bandcamp-DIY musician.
Giannascoli's latest albums — 2017's Rocket and 2019's House of Sugar — are full of bizarre surprises, with twangy Americana, industrial noise and nightmarish electronics hanging side by side like it's no big deal. Alex G's highly anticipated ninth record God Save the Animals is no different, as he continues his brilliant exploration of genre fusion populated by perplexing characters and deeply felt narratives.
By now, Giannascoli's idiosyncrasies are unmistakable; despite the immense range of sounds he toys with, there's never any doubt that you're listening to an Alex G song. There are the downtrodden guitars and double-tracked voices on "Ain't It Easy," and his blend of gritty, esoteric soundscapes and hyper-manipulated vocals sounds more wicked than ever on "Headroom Piano." Giannascoli has never sounded as confident with his relatively-recent foray into alt-country than on "Mission," and his experimentation reaches new heights on "No Bitterness" — what starts as a gentle acoustic number takes a sharp detour into maximalist pseudo hyperpop during its second half. Giannascoli slyly dials it back on the incredibly catchy "Runner," saturated with big, clean guitars reminiscent of a '90s radio-rock song — albeit with a left-field screech and slightly unsettling murmurs of, "Load it up / Know your trigger like the back of my hand." Nothing is off limits in Alex G's infinite sonic universe.
Of course, Giannascoli's now-signature use of voice manipulation is all over God Save the Animals, obscuring his distinctive voice in layers of sonic muck. "Immunity" is a triumphant, pitched-up pop song that delivers an impossibly sweet, Auto-Tune-mangled melody. Elsewhere, his voice is warped low and rumbling, near God-like on "Cross the Sea," as he sings, "You can believe in me" — it's a fleeting moment where Giannascoli appears to be speaking from the perspective of a higher being, peering down to earth rather than calling out to the clouds. .
Words and imagery of God and faith appear frequently on the album, but God Save the Animals isn't Giannascoli's sudden pivot from indie rocker to preacher. Instead, the album is largely about reinterpreting our values as we get older, accepting mortality and trying our best to forge ahead. There's an air of soul-searching on opening track "After All," an innocent voice sighing, "After all / People come and people go away / Yeah / But God with me, he stayed." The album closes with the folksy stomper "Forgive," where Giannascoli declares in his unprocessed, raw singing voice, "Forgive yesterday, I choose today."
On the other end of the spectrum, Giannascoli's eccentric sense of humour about biblical references comes through on the icy, unsettling "S.D.O.S." where he sings, "God is my designer, Jesus is my lawyer," in a maniacal, twisted voice set against creeping piano and a ratcheting, mechanical rhythm made up of strokes on a wooden güiro. Likewise on "Blessing," Giannascoli does his best impression of a post-grunge/nu metal song, complete with a huge drum beat full of swagger, bad boy grunts and a weird, whispering voice claiming, "If I live like the fishes, I will rise from the flood."
Alex G is a genius at crafting intimately familiar feelings while injecting off-kilter miscues that satisfy the oddball compulsions living in our heads. The level of restraint routinely becomes unbalanced in an instant, yet the results are more reassuring than anxiety-inducing. The overarching motif of God Save the Animals is the confessional — "I have done a couple bad things," Giannascoli repeats over and over on "Runner." Alex G makes accepting imperfection feel effortless, so let's just embrace our fate. (Domino)