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Review: God Save The Animals by Alex G

By Otto Hampden-Woodfall

Alex G finds reference points for his experimental brand of folk in both the old and new, synthesising country and hyperpop in an endearingly erratic statement on spirituality.

What’s most interesting about Alex Giannascoli is the mystique colouring his otherwise honest and confrontational style of folk music. Generally, his albums tend to adopt the outward aesthetics of other indie albums that invite intimate or personal interpretations, like Car Seat Headrest’s Twin Fantasy or Elliot Smith’s X/O. The aim for those songwriters is to remove as much obfuscation between the listener and artist as possible, but Alex is more than comfortable veering whole sections of an album towards unbound experimentation, or purposefully defining an otherwise straightforward song by one or two strange production choices. This is largely the form his latest album, God Save The Animals, adopts. 

From the off, After All is an apparently straightforward ode to the persistence of Alex’s god, made angelic and almost surreal by his heavily overdubbed, pitched-up vocals. They propel the folkish instrumentation forward in a kind of resonant drone. Though there is a familiar indie folk foundation to the song, its purpose seems to be altogether removed from an intimate expression of spirituality – Alex wants the listener to instead engage with his lyrics as transmuted by heavy processing and effects.

This trend of sonic treatment revealing the ‘real’ or ‘hidden’ meaning of his songs is not static by any means. No Bitterness, with jagged autotune and blown out electronics, looks to the subgenre of hyperpop as merely another method of treating the same intimate expression; being a scene primarily pushed forward by queer and POC artists, hyperpop is unsurprisingly often a balancing act between self-expression and concealing the marginalised or minimised aspects of the artist’s identity. 

On these grounds, Alex G’s specific interpretation here could seem cheap or fetishistic, a sort of stylistic experiment ignorant of context. However, I would wager that he does a lot to find the beauty amidst the noise, first through his foregrounding the song in familiar acoustic guitar picking, and second through the unabashed, almost naive optimism of his lyrics. As the primary moment where heavy sonic processing seems to break through and surpass Alex’s obligatory undercurrent of indie folk, the choice to have that noise directed toward an intense positivity not normally found in his songwriting perhaps speaks to how Alex is interpolating the current musical landscape. 

Both After All and No Bitterness seem to reveal some sort of balancing act in Alex G’s process; trying to find the point at which folk music can be incorporated into the fluid and pristine sonic environment of modern electronic music. This makes failed experiments like Cross The Sea more palatable than they might otherwise be; if you’re going into an Alex G album expecting every song to win you over or to even feel like a finished article, you will probably end up disappointed. Cross The Sea isn’t terrible by any means: though it is structurally incoherent, driven by ineffectual vocals that drag the song out needlessly to the end of amateurish EDM-lite noise, in context it is unlikely to offend. This is especially true given how, following the punishing, Modest Mouse-meets-Yellow Swans lead single Blessing, Alex then seems to fixate more on a country-adjacent interpolation of his more standard, elegantly designed indie folk. Indeed, that country influence was the strongest impression I got when seeing him live earlier this year; it could be said that this current ‘era’ of Alex G is less of a tight-knit balancing act and more of a mad dash to either end of the musical spectrum, from his competing interests in the old and the new. 

In country music, Alex G finds a softer and more mature character in his usual style; in hyperpop and experimental electronica, he finds a child-like optimism and euphoria entirely removed from the usual emotional landscape in which folk artists operate, but that nevertheless seems to speak strongly to Alex’s spirituality.


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