‘House of Sugar’ is the epitome of sweet indie-folk

(Sandy) Alex G smoothly blends the sounds of indie rock and folk while incorporating electronic, multi-layered vocals

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(Sandy) Alex G performing at Fader Fort in 2015.

Courtesy Anna Hanks

Music lovers fond of both delicate violin and heavy guitar don’t need to look any further than the discography of (Sandy) Alex G to find a beautifully eccentric mix of two seemingly opposing genres. Alexander Giannascoli, the former Bandcamp sensation and Pennsylvania native, displays his signature synthesizing of indie rock and folk-laced tracks with new vigor on his latest release, “House of Sugar.” His outstanding ability to create an overwhelming wall of sound as one person leaves listeners yearning for more of his unique musical quality from the next release. Accompanied by a lyrical journey of self-determination and an exploration of the desperate essence of human nature, Alex displays a sound that appears increasingly evolved with each biennial album drop.

Despite the album’s cohesive nature, each song is a standout in its own right. Opening track “Walk Away” incorporates the aggressively beautiful strumming of a guitar with nearly grating, raw vocals. This introduction soon gives way to an amalgamation of layered voices and heavy instrumentation. The intentional inconsistency of the intro and body of the song perfectly illustrates the lyrical content, which largely speaks to the desperation of an individual truly struggling not to abandon someone in need. The overall aesthetic of this track’s sound is reminiscent of the whimsically dark album art for “House of Sugar.” Tracks like “Near” which exhibit masterful tiers of voice distortion create a chaotic, sonic atmosphere which undoubtedly engenders powerful emotion in the listener. However, disturbing downturns in instrumentation that occur in tracks like “Walk Away” and “Hope” are eased by Alex’s soft and genuine vocals, giving the songs a more innocent appeal.

“Gretel,” the single which preceded the album, greeted fans with a developed sound that both mirror’s Alex’s previous work and propels him further into the genre-blending league of indie rock triumphing in the charts today. However, this does not mean the melodic violins and guitar picking are tossed aside — they are simply evolved. “Southern Sky” further embodies the effortless welding of folk and violins with the angst and guitar of a classic indie rock track, along with the help of soft-spoken indie queen, Emily Yacina. This newfound instrumental prowess is displayed in the track, “Taking,” which stands out despite the absence of much lyrical assistance. 

The emphasis on sole production is similar to the track “Project 2,” which subtly breaks up the album at its halfway point with the purity of exceptional sound. In stark contrast to the instrumental focus displayed in these two tracks, simple guitar leaves room for the showcasing of Alex’s perfectly raw vocal style. “Lie on the ground / Kiss on the mouth,” These lyrics are from the song “Cow” on “Project 2” and demonstrate the simplicity, yet mastery of his solo compositions.  

“House of Sugar” and its consistently careful balance between indie and folk is nearly shattered by “Bad Man.” This is without a doubt the most folk-influenced, blatantly “yeehaw” track created by Alex, yet it somehow remains true to the indie rock genre with its hip, instrumental modernity. Although it makes you want to abandon urban living in exchange for a simple, rural life, it exhibits a contemporary sound one could imagine hearing at a city show. The electronic air of the album continues during the vocals of “Sugar,” as they ultimately serve to break up the almost medieval tone of the piano-dominated instrumentation. Oddly, this song could easily be the background music for a new-age video game that blends sword fighting and space travel, making it a strange rarity on an otherwise cohesive album. 

Despite this disparity, balance is restored at the end of the release with “SugarHouse – Live.” This song showcases a beautiful and remarkably cohesive live performance which ends the album on a note of commanding saxophone, reverberating guitar and the alluring vocalization of Alex himself.

The evolution of (Sandy) Alex G has become wildly apparent with the release of “House of Sugar.” It is hard to imagine another album encompassing the ease the two seemingly opposing genres embrace each other with wholehearted balance in both instrumentation and vocalization, of course, that is until (Sandy) Alex G’s next release.

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