Picture House Social presents…
(SANDY) ALEX G
With a goat-adorned cover painted by Alex's sister, Rachel, 'Rocket' is the Philadelphia-based artist's eighth full-length release-an assured statement that follows a slate of humble masterpieces, many of them self-recorded and self-released, stretching from 2010's 'RACE' to his 2015 Domino debut, 'Beach Music'. 'Rocket's sessions began shortly after 'Beach Music's ended, with Alex tracking songs at home, by himself and with friends, in the gaps between a hectic 2015 and 2016 touring schedule. Both albums were mixed by Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Bass Drum of Death), who lent them a fine-tuning that retains the homespun personality of earlier efforts.
Amid the process, in the fall of 2016, Alex made headlines for reasons outside his own releases. He had caught the attention of Frank Ocean, who asked him to play guitar on his two 2016 albums, 'Endless' and 'Blonde'. More than any stylistic cues, what Alex took from the experience was a newfound confidence in collaboration. «I always have a hard time letting people play on my stuff,» he says, «but I saw how comfortable ['Ocean'] was using other people's playing.» Alex's previous albums are largely solo affairs, but 'Rocket' wears this collaborative spirit proudly. Touring band members Samuel Acchione and John Heywood contribute guitar and bass, both soloing on 'County'; Samuel's brother Colin plays bass on two songs as well. Emily Yacina, a more frequent collaborator, sings on 'Bobby' and 'Alina,' and Molly Germer shows up throughout the album on violin and vocals. Germer's violin was a game-changer, as the instrument «added a texture that I can't get on my own,» Alex notes.
The looser, collaborative approach helped cultivate the variety of musical styles that 'Rocket' presents. The dense, folky cluster of 'Poison Root' leads to the bouncing country-rock of 'Proud,' which is followed by the sophisticated harmonies of jazz-pop tune 'County.' Later, the freaky, frantic 'Witch' unsettles the album's pop sensibility, while instrumentals 'Horse' and 'Rocket' set a more placid mood-that is, until the distorted, beat-driven 'Brick' destroys any feelings of serenity exuded by the surrounding songs. 'Rocket' ends with a rollicking free-for-all, 'Guilty,' that in its numerous contributors and blaring saxophone synthesizes the album's communal feel and restless sense of musical experimentation.
«I want ['Rocket'] to be completely unassuming,» Alex says. «I wanted it to be full of these characters that don't know how crazy they are.» Rocket doesn't have a pointed theme so much as these general feelings of unsteadiness and incomprehension-feelings we remember from growing up and that creep into the everyday life of adulthood as well.
In some ways, the album's title encapsulates this sense: «I like the word 'rocket' because it sounds immature, attention-seeking,» Alex explains. But while rockets certainly make a big impression, they also burn out. On 'Rocket', the myopic characters teeter between the initial explosion and the ultimate burning out. Alex himself, though, in a collection of songs that's both his tightest and most adventurous, is poised only for the ascent.