He just gets better and better. From lo-fi beginnings (Sandy) Alex G has slowly but surely emerged as one of the best songwriters of his generation. 2017's superb Rocket added a fascinating experimental bent to his songs and was a multi-faceted unpredictable riot of sound. Early indications for House of Sugar are of further warm country-tinged songs with nods towards Elliott Smith and Lou Barlow but complete as always with Alex G's wistful, autumnal melancholy.
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‘Hansel and Gretel’, I'm sure you're aware, is a German fable in which a pair of children are enticed by a house constructed from gingerbread and are subsequently kidnapped by the cannibalistic wood witch within. (Sandy) Alex G’s latest album ‘House of Sugar’ riffs on the cautionary tale, contrasting the seductively layered and rich production with yearning and bittersweet lyrics. The opulent compositions are never overwrought, instead they make out (Sandy) Alex G out to be a meticulous songwriter at the height of his talents; an artist who can create multiple layers of sweet treats to unlock with each listen.
The cacophonous yet melodic introductory track ‘Walk Away’ immediately captures intrigue with (Sandy) Alex chanting “Not today” over and over again. Those psychedelic arrangements are replaced by the stark guitar strums of ‘Hope’, an upbeat indie folk number which details a close friend’s death through overdose and drug addiction. It’s one of the many examples of Alex’s ability at juxtaposition and helps sculpt the defining bittersweet tone of the album. 'Southern Sky’ similarly pairs introspective prose with an upbeat shuffle, with the sauntering piano chords and brisk rhythm immediately recalling classic Elliott Smith tracks like ‘Waltz #2’ and ‘Pitseleh’.
‘Gretel’ sees (Sandy) Alex detailing Gretel’s perspective of the Brothers Grimm tale with a despairing modern twist; the sound of passing traffic is mimicked with wailing guitars, bluesy guitar strums make sense of the dread of the modern world, and the pixie vocal chirps and gushing strings capture the enchantment. ‘Gretel’ is the transformative track which sees the singer-songwriter stylings of the first act replaced by alien peculiarity. The five tracks which follow see a flurry of back masked guitars, chiming vocals, clattering trip hop percussion, child-like vocal chants, and bombastic IDM beats and bass; all of which sound as fantastical as they do martian.
‘In My Arms’ signals the return of folky (Sandy) Alex G, with its gorgeous resonating chords and simplistic drumming it's one of Sandy (Alex G)’s most tender ballads to date. ‘Cow’ takes a leaf out of the Neil Young songbook by showing just how effective a few notes can be, and ‘Crime’ blends haunting alternative country with a Pavement-esque waltz. Interestingly, (Sandy) Alex closes the album with a live recording of ‘SugarHouse’, which sounds like Bruce Springsteen playing at a smoky backwoods piano bar.
‘House of Sugar’ is an album defined by its pick ‘n’ mix production with healthy sprinklings of sherbert-sour lyricism. It’s warm yet forlorn lasting impression makes it the perfect record for the upcoming Autumnal nights; just keep an eye out for that cannibalistic wood witch...
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