Release Date: Oct 9, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Listen to enough of his music, and you start to realize that the only way Alex Giannascoli talks about himself is through his songs. The 22-year-old Philadelphia singer-songwriter comes off blasé in interviews, giving simple, superficial answers like his mind’s somewhere else. He’s the same way at shows — his stage banter tends to consist of esoteric in-jokes or point-blank gags.
After the release of DSU on Lucky Number last year, Alex Giannascoli (to use his full name) suddenly became something of a lo-fi hero. DSU wasn’t his debut though, far from it, he’d been churning out albums on his Bandcamp page and steadily accumulating fans that couldn’t get enough of his lo-fi pop gems. Beach Music is his seventh album, and his first for a label of Domino’s stature, but anyone concerned that the charm of his earlier work might be lost in the transition needn’t worry; Alex G’s wonky genius remains practically unchanged.
‘Beach Music’ is a misleading title for Alex G’s seventh album, because it’s the first to not be rooted to one single place. Previously, Alex Giannascoli was either the go-to bedroom recording artist, or the pride of Philadelphia. He’d make albums off the cuff and in spontaneous but meaty-constructed sessions. A Bandcamp favourite, he swiftly became a self-releasing king of the underground.
“Part of what he became didn’t fancy it up on land, and went back down there, and turned into porpoises and sharks, and manta rays, and whales, and you. ”– Edward Albee’s “Seascape” “Find Your Beach”– Corona Extra Over the past five years, Alex G, real name Alex Giannascoli, has self-released several albums on his Bandcamp page (most of which are still up), slowly gathering a devout following of like-minded bands in the Philadelphia/Baltimore area and small tape labels like Orchid Tapes and the now-disgraced Birdtapes. With little to no presence online outside of his Bandcamp and little written about him elsewhere, Alex G’s path was calm, complementing the simple nature of his songs.
Alex G sounds like he might be a hard-house DJ from Preston, but in fact he’s a Philadelphia-based bedroom musician who has been championed as “the internet’s best secret songwriter” after a string of “DIY” releases on Bandcamp. While this style of 90s US alt.indie is having another moment, G’s debut is the loner colt among the show ponies. His lush lo-fi recalls battered VHS tape recordings of MTV2 reruns found in a bin and lovingly restored.
A prolific songwriter still in his early twenties, Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) delivers Beach Music, his first album with the Domino label, after 2014's DSU, multiple self-released sets, and scores of uploaded songs over the prior few years. A D.I.Y. artist, Alex G thus far prefers to record at home with full charge of the process -- although he's not above bringing in guest performers -- and the album is entirely self-produced and self-engineered (with mixing by Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist Jake Portrait).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Having made his name making the kind of homegrown, bedroom indie that has a tendency to find adoration one way or another, Alex Giannascoli, who performs under the name Alex G, has managed to find a way to stand apart thanks to his inherent aptitude for writing a song, as well as a penchant for exploration and experimentation. And now, with Beach Music, his seventh LP and first on Domino, he faces the task of living up to the expectations that come with taking a bedroom project a little further into the light.
Alex Giannascoli has built a back catalog under the name Alex G that maybe only Robert Pollard would fail to find staggering. Though he only released a label-backed album for the first time last year — the excellent DSU, put out via the equally excellent Orchid Tapes — Giannascoli produced a boatload of records at home and released them on Bandcamp, amassing a rabid underground following and acclaim that only blossomed once he had a label to bolster his charmingly wide-eyed indie pop. But his latest LP, Beach Music, arrives in his fans’ hands through indie heavy-hitter Domino.
Alex Giannascoli reached audiences beyond Bandcamp for the first time last year with DSU, a mostly upbeat collection of bedroom-spun indie rock that showcased a 21-year-old Philadelphian with a knack for songcraft and a tinkerer's curiosity. Under the moniker of Alex G, he has made seven full lengths, most of which he put out himself. Beach Music is his Domino debut and, as he is poised to reach an even larger audience, he lets his weirder and darker instincts run rampant.
It’s often regarded as damning criticism to refer to an artist and their work as “indulgent”. Yet when the artist is Alex G, and when the only thing that’s being indulged by his debut album for Domino is a fertile pop sensibility, it becomes apparent that “indulgent” is really just a placeholder for a more specific failing the critic can’t quite identify, and that by itself it can’t possibly stand as a denunciation. It’s apparent because Beach Music is one of the most indulgent records you’re likely to hear all year, but since it indulges only the Philadelphian’s love for well-crafted pop songs and quirky indie, it’s nothing but an endearing delight.
The 49-second intro to Philly low-fi guru Alex Giannascoli's latest album crashes in with tinny shouts and guitar feedback — a jarring fake-out before the album's real opener, "Bug," turns to the mellow, muted tones at which he excels. At 22, Alex G has already recorded six LPs, released mostly on Bandcamp. With last year's excellent DSU, he became a breakout star on the boutique Brooklyn label Orchid Tapes.
If every generation throws a hero up the pop charts, then every generation gets its quota of lo-fi bards. Of the trillion or so the internet has thrown up, Philadelphian Alex Giannascoli is among the most consistent – in a wayward fashion, of course – and one of the easiest on the ear. From his student days uploading fractured songlets on to BandCamp, to last year’s full-length debut, DSU, G has approximated a chilled-out Elliott Smith - a melodic intimacy best evinced on Ready, the best track off his latest album.
If there’s anything that we have learnt about Alex G over the past five years, it is that he makes what he does seem impossibly easy - at least to us mere musical mortals - and he’s at it again with Beach Music. But if you were expecting the same brand of homebrewed lo-fi indie that you may have become accustomed to from Alex G, think again. What we get here is a much more nuanced variety of songs, marking a brave step into uncharted territory for a once bedroom-bound singer-songwriter slash producer.
Alex G (for Giannascoli) upholds an indie-rock archetype that’s older than he is: the lo-fi introvert, sequestered in a bedroom, assembling songs with whatever equipment he has. The private, homemade songs can be as odd or obsessive as he wants. Then, somehow, word gets out. In the 1980s, it was via college radio and print media; for the 22-year-old Alex G, it’s online.