Another incredible album from the veteran singer/songwriter
(Sandy) Alex G has produced another incredible album, showing his evolution as a singer and songwriter. His eighth studio album and third album for Domino, House of Sugar carries an element of lethargy throughout the record, with moments of triumph.
(Sandy) Alex G brainchild Alexander Giannascoli shared in an interview with GQ, “I wanted House of Sugar to be this temple of indulgence. I kind of knew at the beginning I wanted to makes a Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll album from hell…” He’s often asked about the inspiration for the album name, which many would suggest being from a Casino in Philadelphia called SugarHouse, but it’s actually not. Themes of a sugary gingerbread house, however, also come to mind with songs titled “Gretel.” Sonically as a whole, Giannascoli reaches into his toolkit of electronic, lo-fi, and in some cases, auto-tune. House of Sugar sounds and feels cohesive, despite the songs dabbling in genres ranging from folk to electronic.
The opening song “Walk Away” is also the longest, with mumbled vocals, softly booming lows, and chiming synths in true Alex G fashion. Instrumental tracks like “Project 2” are utterly hypnotic, but then unexpectedly lead into over-the-top folk vocals in songs like “Bad Man,” which sounds a little more comical. “Sugar” is droning and triumphant like a thrilling chase through a jungle. “Southern Sky” is catchy, employing liberal use of the fiddle. “Taking” is minimalistic in its’ lyrics, repeating the words “and coming” and “and taking.” In fact, the sound could be mistaken for being completely instrumental because the vocals are so melded with the synth.
Masterful songwriting and harmonies really come together in “Cow,” which is sorrowful and gentle. The song exposes Giannascoli’s vulnerability in getting attached in his relationship with the lyrics ” You big old cow/ you draw me out/ don’t put me down,” pleading at the end of the song to not let him get hurt. “Hope” is a mistakenly upbeat homage to Giannascoli’s late friend. “He was a good friend of mine/ he died/ why I write about it now?/ gotta honor him somehow.” “Gretel” is another strong track, with lyrics that evoke a sense of shedding one’s old bad habits. “I don’t wanna go back/ nobody’s gonna push me off track/ I don’t wanna be this/ good people gotta fight to exist” he sings in the chorus.
For an album about “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” House of Sugar is pretty unassuming. The layering in several of the tracks is pretty unexpected, such as in “Near,” which features an alternating drum pattern, layered distorted vocals and rhythmic guitars that seem to just fumble around but somehow work together. It’s an album that reveals its complexity to the listener with each dive into it. “SugarHouse” closes the album with sultry saxophones and a lounge-inspired vocal to carry you home.