(Sandy) Alex G

ALL AGES

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Location

Black Cat

1811 14th St. NW

Washington, DC 20009

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Event description
(Sandy) Alex G, Tomberlin, & ARTHUR appearing at Black Cat in Washington, DC

About this Event

(Sandy) Alex G

There’s hardly a second when Alex Giannascoli’s voice can’t be heard in “Walk Away,” the opener of his

latest album,

House of Sugar

. The distended, pitched

-

up wail that introduces the track gives way to

cascading layers of his more familiar intonations. “Someday I’m gonna walk away from you,” he sings;

“not today.” These are the song’s only words, repeated again and again for more tha

n four minutes. In the

repetition, emphasis shifts from “someday” to “not today" and back, leaving the listener in a space of

uncertainty. It’s in this space that Giannascoli

the 26

-

year

-

old artist better known as (Sandy) Alex G

lingers throughout the albu

m’s thirteen songs: between backwards and forwards, past and future, one

voice and another. On

House of Sugar

, his third full

-

length for Domino and ninth overall, Alex inhabits a

diverse range of musical and emotional points

-

of

-

view (often simultaneously),

in turn illuminating the

tension that hides in the shadow of desire.

Giannascoli began writing these songs in the fall of 2017, having just finished a tour for

House of Sugar

’s

acclaimed predecessor,

Rocket

, and moved into a new apartment in Philadelphia

. Whereas with earlier

efforts, such as 2011’s self

-

released

Winner

or the landmark 2014 release

DSU

, he’d write numerous

songs fairly quickly, with

House of Sugar

Giannascoli worked at a steadier pace, concentrating on fewer

songs and laboring over each o

ne more than before.

After building the tracks at home, recording most of the guitars, keyboards, and vocals himself,

Giannascoli enlisted some recurring bandmates and collaborators to help realize further aspects of the

album: Samuel Acchione’s wailing e

lectric guitar on “Walk Away,” John Heywood’s bass underneath

“Taking,” Tom Kelly’s drums giving “Hope” its bounce, Molly Germer underscoring “Southern Sky” on

violin. Throughout the process Giannascoli worked closely with Jacob Portrait, who mixed both

Ro

cket

and its predecessor, 2015’s

Beach Music

, and here helped to balance each of

House of Sugar

’s dense,

multi

-

faceted tracks. As the product of extended focus and planning,

House of Sugar

emerges as

Giannascoli’s most meticulous, cohesive album yet: a sta

tement of artistic purpose, showing off his ear

for both persistent earworms and shifting textures.

Which is to say, “cohesive” doesn’t imply that

House of Sugar

dispenses with the out

-

there sonic

adventurism that’s made previous (Sandy) Alex G records so

singular. Giannascoli recorded with a clone

of the Neumann U87 microphone, built by Tom Kelly

the first time he’d ever used a microphone other

than the Samson Q1U USB mic that he got as a teenager. The new mic, coupled with an updated version

of Garageban

d that came with a replacement laptop, provided Giannascoli a new toolkit for home

-

recording, prompting him to analyze the types of sounds he’d been making and that he wanted to make.

In addition to bolstering the rich, polished mix of its rock

-

oriented so

ngs, the new equipment allowed for a

broad range of unique technical experiments that provide each track emotional and tonal complexity. This

includes not only the otherworldly vocals that haunt songs such as “Walk Away,” “Taking,” and “Bad

Man,” but also

the more subtle hums and echoes that texture “Hope” and “Gretel,” and the distorted

soundscapes into which listeners of “Sugar” and “Near” are immersed.

Throughout, the multiplicity of Giannascoli’s voice evokes the hybrid existence of a science

-

fiction

c

reature, at once human and

something else

. Indeed, in many ways, hybridity defines

House of Sugar

.

The lines between characters and narrators are perpetually blurry, allowing room for artist and listener

alike to move through the songs, to access their shi

fting headspaces.

On “Southern Sky”,

we hear a

voice other than Giannascoli’s own: frequent collaborator Emily Yacina, who sang on

Rocket

’s “Bobby,”

among other (Sandy) Alex G songs. The pair’s voices intertwine as they follow the track’s meandering

pathw

ay. Its steady country

-

rock bounce belies the extent to which “Southern Sky” changes as it flows

along

how it starts with a discordant piano run and ends with the lilting strum of a single acoustic guitar,

a disturbed (and unintentional) echo of Neil Young

’s “Harvest Moon.” The distinction between beginning

and end, at first concealed by a tight composition, is emblematic of the way

House of Sugar

works as a

whole: throughout the album Giannascoli makes you think that something is one way before revealing,

often almost imperceptibly

maybe not until it’s too late

that it’s probably another.

The stakes are often high in this regard. The dramatic action pose depicted on the album’s cover (as

always, painted by Giannascoli’s sister, Rachel) points to the feeli

ngs of precarity evoked within. Just as

the figure skater looks poised to either succeed or fall,

House of Sugar

’s characters are constantly

teetering on the edge of extremes, approaching either bliss or violence

unless it’s both at the same time.

They’re

manipulated (“Gretel”) and manipulative (“Crime”); up in the sky (“Sugar”) and buried in the dirt

(“Bad Man”). Caught in the ambiguous spaces of the songs,

House of Sugar

’s characters are disposed

toward the bad

“Music makes me wanna do bad things,” sings

Giannascoli on “In My Arms”

but

seemingly reaching for the good. Or, are they? Could bad

be

good, sweet be sour? While each track hints

at concrete situations derived from either Giannascoli’s life or a covert array of literary and filmic sources,

none exc

ludes a host of oppositional possibilities that listeners can generate and regenerate themselves.

The album’s final track, “SugarHouse,” opens with applause: it was recorded at a 2018 concert in St.

Louis, with a saxophone overdubbed later, the first time

Giannascoli has implemented a live recording on

a studio album. (In 2018, though, he released a

Live at Third Man Records

LP.) A brooding, flowing

anthem, “SugarHouse” shares its name with a casino not far from Giannascoli’s home in Philadelphia; as

the s

ong unfolds, the casino emerges as a suggestive site for the album as a whole. Its first verse echoes

the various moments when a

House of Sugar

protagonist realizes that highs are always temporary, that

what seems sweet often isn’t. “SugarHouse is calling

my bluff,” Giannascoli sings. But, in the second

verse, his character

unknown and broken

nevertheless professes faith in where he is and who he’s with. Nothing is definitive, but after thirteen songs of being split apart and spread around, through these

re

lationships, in the

House of Sugar

, he might finally be “put together again.”

Date and Time

Location

Black Cat

1811 14th St. NW

Washington, DC 20009

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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