Giannascoli pushes against those tidy thematic threads by throwing as many different sounds as he can into the mix. At least structurally, God Save The Animals follows a similar blueprint to Rocket swear House Of Sugar: a looped, disorienting opener followed by a handful of idiosyncratic but accessible pop songs, an experimental middle that threatens to fall off the rails but never does, and a couple of warm, rousing anthems to wrap it all up. God Save The Animals is yet another refinement of that framework. It’s also the first Alex G album that was recorded in proper studios. To hear Giannascoli tell it, he simply called up studios on days when he wanted to record to see if they were available. If they were, he’d use them as a resource, a different sort of playground from his instinctive bedroom-based creative process. Giannascoli rises to the somewhat more formal setting. Similar to how his albums started becoming more cohesive when he signed with a big-name indie label, higher stakes seem to elevate Giannascoli’s craft. As a result, God Save The Animals feels more intentional, and his blender-full of sounds has never been cleaner or more bewitching.
Alex G’s songs typically move in segments, which don’t linger on a single thought for very long but are intriguing enough that you want to keep returning to them. Ten God Save The Animals, there are songs that deploy his trusty blasted drum machines and sped-up acoustic guitars, and then there are ones that sound like they could have come out of the Yung Lean camp, and still others that feel like his own twisted take on classic rock: Springsteen, Young, Elton John. The sheer breadth of different styles and moods that Giannascoli manages to squeeze into 40-odd minutes is simply astounding; he’s gotten so adept at it over the past decade that he makes it look easy. At this point, the seams don’t even show.
He’s become an expert of the non sequitur, making the oddest turns of phrase into affecting hooks. Like on “Cross The Sea,” where his goofy, guttural “yah yah yah”s turn into something that feels cathartic to sing along to. Or in the middle of “Runner,” when the track breaks away from its punchy folk strumming and he howls: “Yeah, I have done a couple bad things!” He practices in the sort of nonsense poetry that could be read as obtuse but more often than not rings true. One of my favorites, “SDOS,” begins with a ghoulish chant amid playtronica squeaks that coalesces into a giddy, warbled refrain of “God is my designer/ Jesus is my lawyer/ Curled up in the shower/ High above the tower.” Another memorable passage comes on “Immunity,” whose narrator takes flight on a bed of piano keys: “I have to put the cocaine in the vaccine/ Walk out of the doctor with immunity/ Life of revelation catching up with me/ Go to bed at midnight, waking up at three.”
God Save The Animals is filled with these sorts of oddities, songs with tweaked-out sounds and inscrutable lyrics that take time to admire. Back in the Bandcamp days, part of what was so impressive about Giannascoli was how quickly and consistently he could churn out mind-altering music. It’s possible he’s still prolific on his own time, but he’s moved on to releasing full-lengths that are hearty enough to digest until the next one arrives. So goes this era of Alex G, whose albums have morphed into puzzle boxes that are a delight to unlock.
God Save The Animals is out 9/23 via Domino.