Near the end of his debut LP for Orchid Tapes, Alex Giannascoli has a song called simply, Sorry. It starts with one guitar, a minor chord, a sense of unease. Then the drums drop in, scuttling beneath Alex G’s nervously greasy, adolescent vocals. And the chorus: “I look at you and feel the same/Could you forgive me for that pain?” It’s a chest-tightening, oppressively sad kind of song that doesn’t lend itself to multi-tasking. You just have to sit and listen. But the song doesn’t end when you think it’s going to end. The track finishes with an almost tropical flourish; a rhythm guitar dripping with soft refreshment that fades slowly into a sweet, buzzy lull. But despite a final smirk, the initial anxiety lingers.
Alex G’s music—including his avalanche of self-released Bandcamp albums—is saturated with this sort of delicate uncertainty, mental backtracking and restless romantic solitude. And all this makes sense when you consider he’s just a 21-year-old college kid living in scruffy north Philly. But Giannascoli makes music that sticks. Music so immensely personal, it’s hard to believe you’re even capable of comprehending the majority of what you’re hearing.
Throughout DSU, Alex G fills in gaps and layers over his songs’ simple backbones with shy yet enthralling tweaks and shuffles. The first seven seconds of album opener After Ur Gone are scrappling, screeching, inhuman but unclassifiable—it’s a strange start to an album that’s deeply humanistic. Promise features a bristlingly funky bassline and waxy, smooth keys. There’s the twee, throaty vocals on Rejoyce where Giannascoli sounds like he’s singing post helium-suck with a swollen tongue. A screeching guitar at the start of the cowering Skipper matches sweet melodies with horror movie flickers.
In a small and growing part of the internet, Alex G is already famous. Mat Cothran of Elvis Depressedly dubbed Promise the song of the year. But to most people, Alex G is still just a guy with no last name. But given his isolated blue collar existentialism and frill-less musical prowess, I can’t imagine it’s going to stay that way for very long.