Alex G searches for past and future meaning on ‘God Save the Animals’
Singer-songwriter Alex G has always existed just outside the realm of conventional indie music. Since his 2010 debut, “Race,” each project has explored new ideas, concepts and characters. Much of his work functions as a collection of short stories that may or may not be connected in any significant way. On his newest album, “God Save the Animals,” the themes are a little less hidden; Alex G dissects faith and coming to terms with past traumas.
In the opener “After All,” listeners learn right away that this isn’t going to be a conventional indie album. Pitched-up vocals referencing biblical passages and finding love in God float atop a folky instrumental, making for a strong start to the album. This momentum continues in the second song, “Runner,” the first (and a surprisingly rare) glimpse of Alex G’s natural voice on the project. Released as a single beforehand, “Runner” is a short, sweet and infinitely replayable song about a drug runner.
Alex G conducts many sonic experiments throughout “God Save the Animals.” Some are successful to great effect; just take the hyperpop-inspired breakdown towards the end of “No Bitterness,” for example. But while Alex G is no stranger to manipulating his voice, nowhere has he done so more than on this album, to the point where it can become grating by the end. “Immunity” is a heartfelt, psychedelic song containing some of the best lyrics on the project, but I can’t help but feel like it would be a greater standout with Alex’s natural voice.
In a discography with stories about other people, “Miracles” is a rare, more personal cut. Over a beautiful, country-inspired instrumental, Alex G sings about inevitabilities, fears and hope.
“A few people that I’m close to became religious,” Alex said in a Pitchfork interview published shortly after the single’s release. “It made me wonder what they found.”
This track, as well as the closer, “Forgive,” goes to show that many of the strongest moments in Alex G’s music occur when he goes back to basics. Invoking his inner Mark Hollis for the vocal performance, he sings about “forgiving yesterday.”
In a career full of interesting projects, “God Save the Animals” is another left turn for Alex G. It falls into an uncanny valley; even if some sounds may seem familiar, you always feel like something is a bit off. For better or for worse, this album proves that Alex G remains a creative and original force in indie music.
Alex G’s ‘God Save The Animals’ is a strong showing but falls short of revolutionary
There are some artists that exude expertise as soon as you press play, no matter whether you’ve heard them or not before; Alex Giannascoli is one of those individuals. Under the moniker Alex G, his new LP “God Save The Animals” is his 11th album in 12 years, and you can tell this is not his first rodeo. Embodied by a powerful yet calm sound and profound messages, this album is a solid addition to his extensive discography.
Alex G has curated a unique sound up to this point in his career. He conjures a complex blend of elements from lo-fi, indie rock and folk, but refuses to be defined by any of those categories. Emotional chord progressions are the backdrop behind moving vocals and robust drums. Despite the strong emotions they evoke, the tenor is always controlled and peaceful.
The first track, “After All,” is an ethereal start to the album, and stood the test of time as my favorite track on the project. Giannascoli’s pitched-up vocals reverberate and float above a driving instrumental that triumphantly rises and falls from verse to chorus and back. It references religion persevering in his life above all else. The next track is equal parts happy and melancholy as it takes on an interesting narrative about a drug runner. The third track, “Mission,” is a slower tune, returning to the religious themes woven throughout the album’s lyrics.
A topic that Giannascoli returns to throughout this album is the idea of innocence and its loss. On the third track, “No Bitterness,” he mentions that his “teacher” is a child, someone who has no disdain or cynicism yet. They are yet to see the ugliness of the world, and still see things through an uncontaminated lens. Giannascoli cycles through messages of religion and reminisces about prior innocence, with an interesting tie-in to selling drugs. While some messages seem to connect to his life and others may be fictitious, they all reflect on the complex nature of adherence to values and staying afloat when life tries to drag you down.
The song “Blessing” features Giannascoli’s gravelly whispers over a mysterious instrumental. This song centers around the blessing of life continuing each day despite what one encounters, and an interesting analogy that if you “live like the fishes,” then you will “rise from the flood.” The penultimate song, “Miracles,” has a characteristically folk feel, and is in line with the message of the project as a whole.
As the LP runs its course, some of the tracks in the latter half become less memorable. They do not necessarily fall out of either the melodic or sonic themes that encapsulate the project, and it would be simply wrong to call them bad. But the fact that they are unremarkable yet still manage to fit the project speaks about the album as a whole.
Overall, the LP amounts to a solid, strong showing to add to Alex G’s discography with a powerful reflection on life and religion. It’s hard to pinpoint, but the album’s opening songs matched the lyrics’ raw emotions the best. If this was upheld through the duration of the album, it would be nearly perfect for what it was going for. Despite these qualms, Alex G has proven his vocal prowess, musicianship and storytelling through this album; there is no doubt he will continue on this path as his career progresses.