What better way to slack off than with the sound of laziness, self-consciousness and teenage whininess? And what better way to do it than with the most DIY singer songwriter of all, Alex G? Nothing can go wrong, because you have decided to do nothing.
Alex G first made a name for himself by playing college kid filled basements in his native Philadelphia and making a number of releases available through bandcamp. However, a somewhat major breakthrough came in 2014 with his LP DSU, which came out through boutique Brooklyn label Orchid Tapes, and which benefited from quite a lot of media coverage, being hailed as an incredibly direct and well crafted collection of harsh, but sweet lo-fi. While it had its charms, I couldn’t shake the feeling of immaturity which was maybe a bit over the top. Yes, I realize that the refusal of taking things serious is essential in such an indie-mumble-loser context, but still it felt somehow lacking. Harmonically, it had some unexpected turns, but sound-wise, there just wasn’t anything exciting about it.
Beach Music, Alex’ sophomore LP, released on Domino, comes with a promise of more dirty, noisy guitars and judging by the cover, some sort of spiritual edge, and it mostly delivers. Guitars are gritty, quality is low, timing is slightly off and noise is ever present. To kick things off, Intro is a sort of field/room recording in lo-fi heaven. It would suggest some sort of conceptual dimension to the release, but as far as I can tell, it actually only places you in a producer/songwriter’s bedroom, leaving any wish of narrativity unrequited. Bug, Kicker, Brite Boy and Snot further use the Alex G aesthetic already established, being structurally extremely close to most songs on DSU, failing to surprise in any way. However the new directions Alex tries out could prove interesting.
In Love for instance manages to create an incredibly cheap bar atmosphere, with very surprising piano and trumpet lines. Also, vaporwave seems to play a major role in Alex’ latest listening habits, cheesy ’80s drumming and synth sounds rearing their head on tracks like Salt or Look Out. These experiments in this dreamy, ironically cringe-worthy aesthetic sort of work, but feel far too intentional, rather than honest, an aspect which his general allure implies. The most surprising turn of events however is the song Ready, which, had it been a more polished recording, could have easily come from the late ’60s or ’70s, think San Tropez or Green is the Colour Pink Floyd, or A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Beach Music is far from being groundbreaking, but the good part is that it’s not even trying to be. It brings some new nuances to the loser with a heart of gold persona, adapted to the current internet fueled creativity of young artists, but nothing more. If your favorite place in the world is the couch, you might find a friend in Alex G.