Ranking Alex G's Albums
by Owen Murray
Much like his stage name, Alexander Giannascoli, or (Sandy) Alex G’s music is both cryptic and inviting. His melodies are accessible, his harmonies are often off-kilter. His lyrics are wholesome but offbeat. He has developed a knack for blending country and psychedelia, along with the occasional dash of punk into his indie-folk style. With six albums in the bag, (Sandy) Alex G is one of modern indie rock’s most prolific and consistent artists. Here’s a ranking of (Sandy) Alex G’s discography from worst (which is still pretty good) to best.
6. DSU (2014)
On his first album DSU, Alex G laid out the fundamentals of his sound which he would later build upon and stretch to its limits. The album is sprinkled with simple but quirky guitar melodies that would go on to become an Alex G staple. Songs like “Harvey” feature a cheap flute keyboard sound that has somehow continued to serve Alex G well in his later discography, even as he moved beyond his bedroom-pop constraints.
DSU not quite a fully realized project. The songs simply aren’t as memorable as the noisy interludes.
5. Trick (2015)
Trick was Alex G’s second album of 2015 and followed the more straightforward Rules. While the songs weren’t necessarily as sharp as its predecessor, Trick found a better balance between noisy quirks and structurally compelling songs than DSU did. It features some standout tracks such as the creepy, and slightly kinky, “Mary.”
4. Rules (2015)
Rules is (Sandy) Alex G’s most cut and dry album, but it features some of his strongest songwriting. From the haunting “Wicked Boy” to the gorgeous bonus track “Sandy,” Alex G proved he no longer needed to rely on superfluous quirks to keep his music interesting. The post-chorus instrumental break on “Mis” features the signature cheap flute sound breathing slowly but restlessly over the twinkling piano. Coupled with the heartbroken refrain “I miss you so baaaad,” it’s one of the most beautiful moments in Alex G’s body of work.
3. Beach Music (2015)
On Beach Music, Alex G abandoned the straightforward elements of Rules in favor of more ethereal elements. Songs like “Look Out” have a loose and cerebral bedroom pop sound, lending the project some of his strangest and most mesmerizing music to date.
Mainstays like “Brite Boy” show Alex G blending his quirks into his songs more smoothly, something he hadn't quite nailed on Trick or DSU where quirks and conventional songwriting seemed to take turns.
2. Rocket (2017)
For his first album on Domino Records, Alex G… well, he just really went off.
Especially in the second half of the album, he shifts haphazardly from genre to genre, all the while keeping his enigmatic indie-folk as his base. “Witch” sounds like some of Animal Collective’s more sinister stuff, and the angst and energy of “Brick” drew a lot of somewhat valid Death Grips comparisons when Alex G released it as a single. The poppy “Sportstar” was another new direction that had Alex G using vocal effects for the first time, which opened the doors for a lot of what was to come on House of Sugar. Songs like “Bobby” and “Powerful Man” showed Alex G flexing his country influence for the first time, resulting in some of his most charming and compelling songs.
Alex G had sung sentimentally about his childhood in the past. On “Powerful Man” he does it more effectively than ever. The song is cute but melancholy as Alex G reflects on turbulent times at home.
Rocket was clearly a higher budget project than its predecessors and Alex G took advantage of his extra resources by showing off his range. It’s not his most focused project but it was clearly his most ambitious, and as a result his most exciting at the time.
1. House of Sugar (2019)
House of Sugar combines the best elements of Alex G’s music and adds even more diversity to his sound. Unlike Rocket, which hopped frantically from genre to genre with little concern for cohesion, House of Sugar manages to tie together a sparkling sonic world with its varied musical pallet.
Rather than switching genres with each song, House of Sugar songs feature a variety of genre influences all at once on each track. The lead single “Gretel” features a glitchy vocal intro, followed by that trusty cheap flute sound, all over a country-influenced lead guitar and vocals.
The more personal moments on songs like “Hope”— “He was a good friend of mine, he died/I write about it now/gotta honor him somehow”— are as tender as anything he has written thus.
The intense and disorienting soundscape of “Sugar” holds a similar place on the album to “Horse” on Rocket, but sounds even more chaotic and beautiful thanks to shimmering synths and haunting background vocals.
House of Sugar is (Sandy) Alex G’s most focused album since Rules but with the ambition of Rocket, making it his best album to date.
House of Sugar finally fulfills Alex G’s potential to be a unique, standout artist that has been apparent since DSU. The album sparkles with invention, but still holds on to it’s indie roots. It is culmination of his strengths in songwriting and experimentation presented with a sweet flair.