On Entering (Sandy) Alex G’s ‘House of Sugar’

By Allyson Nobles
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Summer’s hitting its closing wave this week, climaxed with today as a formidable Friday the 13th. While we all wait for the goop of this slow season to succumb, (Sandy) Alex G has provided the ultimate soundtrack of finality, reflection, and angsty momentum. House of Sugar’s release couldn’t have come at a better time.

Alex Giannascoli, the brain behind it all, visited Hollywood’s Amoeba Music last night as lead up to today’s excitement. He’ll be back in Los Angeles for a proper stop at the Fonda Theatre on October 27th.

From the album’s onset with “Walk Away,” the ponderance is evident and meditative. It’s in the thought process of (in)decision, lapsed on a timeline that is only predicted by the self. The struggle of not only when, but the accepting if one decides to walk away, the anxious echoes constantly backing in and out.

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The aesthetic of the summer guzzling along exudes throughout, from the tangerine sky in “Bad Man” to the train-like chugalong of the percussion in “Hope.” On “Southern Sky,” Emily Yacina joins in the croon, matching the mood and buttering up the harmonies along with Giannascoli’s monotone demeanor.

What does one find in the 37-minute journey through House of Sugar and the insular paranoid drag of the mind? Nostalgia of Giannascoli’s hometown of Philadelphia is spiked with woes of addiction, half-baked self-sabotage, and benevolent regret. It never sounds like it wanders without purpose, however. Even in the droll of each song, transition executes into the next effortlessly.

The pressing relevance of addiction, particularly the impact of fentanyl, is approached from a first-person sorry shrug that seems to persuade us all into numbness. In “Hope,” we see the word’s meaning directly confronted, as mistaken symbol but also in place as the street he lived on in Philadelphia. The prevalence of consequence causing an overabundance of wrought dismay that only concludes in the kind of whinny of Giannascoli’s observation of loss, as if logic puts him out of his own processing, “Why write about it now; gotta honor him somehow.”

One interesting moment of breath comes in “Project 2,” an instrumental interlude reminiscent of early minimalist synths of the eighties, reflexive energy akin to what punctuated the radio during Giannasoli’s early years. This transitions into a more subtle undertone of the following tracks, “Bad Man” and “Sugar,” both having layers of texture, synthetic and otherwise.

“In My Arms” again observes and steps out. “You said the song makes you wanna do bad things,” jumps to, “You know good music makes me wanna do bad things.” The statement is profound, but the sluggish delivery effectively almost makes it as nonchalant a fact as the greenness of grass.

The album begins its conclusion with a return to the subject of leaving, perhaps with a bit more divisiveness to aide. On “Crime,” there is play on returning, revisiting times when they used to have fun, but pointing a bit of a finger. The future pivotal on the next moves, “Careful what you do, or I’m leaving without you.”

Finally, a sax and old school croon lead us out on a live rendition of “Sugarhouse,” almost a call to early swoony Springsteen without the corny chest punches of breakup pangs. “You never met me, I don’t think anyone has” stabs distinct amidst the slur of lyrical lines on guitar and keys, while the sax continues to wail in the distance.

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