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 between 2010-12. His prolific and consistent output would come to the attention of Orchid Tapes artist Mat Cothran of Coma Cinema in 2012, with the small Brooklyn-based indie label signing him up the following year.
Cothran seems to have a good ear for talent, also spotting the wonky bedroom-pop of Katie Dey who released her excellent debut asdfasdf on Orchid Tapes earlier this year. Smaller labels can often struggle to hold on to their more popular artists and 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 other than himself in on the process, with Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist Jake Portrait mixing the album. Other than that the real change seems to have taken place during the recording process, which took longer than usual because of his touring schedule. This also meant that it was 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 nicely 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 jazzy “In Love,” featuring one of many different vocal styles, alongside piano and John Slavin on trumpet.
While Alex G’s 90’s lo-fi influences are there for all to hear, it’s the way he constructs his songs that makes him stand out from other similar 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 seen on DSU, but it comes pretty damn close.
Top Tracks: Bug; Kicker; Salt; Ready
Released: 09 October 2015
Label: Domino Records
Genres: Lo-Fi; Indie; Singer-Songwriter