(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket

Introduction

Following his recent name change that sought to end the often confused female songwriter known by the same pseudonym, (Sandy) Alex G reemerges to offer one of his most polished records to date, a feature that does not necessarily work for the better.

Let’s be clear, Rocket is most definitely a solid work from cover to back, offering a range of different ideas and sounds that piggyback off each other in ways that are both cryptic and clear depending on the track.  Singles like “Proud” and “Bobby” resonate contemporary Americana through its use of trotting meter and singing fiddles.

On the flip side, songs such as “Brick” bring out industrial properties and harsh noise that emulates the tone of more seasoned hardcore veterans such as Death Grips or even Nine Inch Nails.  Even still, the impressive dynamic of this record cannot win me over all the time.

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The Drawbacks…

“Horse” is an example of a piece that comes across as too messy despite its intentional appeal to being a ‘focus track’.  I enjoyed it upon the first few listens but after becoming more familiar with the track it develops a slight annoyance factor that I can’t tune out.

While I favor some of the later tracks over the front half of the album, there is the issue of ordering and arrangement that also keeps me from being overly attached to this record.  Tracks like “Big Fish” would support the narrative much better to be placed as the very last track.  “Witch”, “Horse” and “Brick” could also be mixed into different intervals to avoid the dissonant void in the middle half of the album.

Lyrics

Focusing on lyrics, Alex G is soaring in this category.  With most songs continuing the two or three verse pattern G has kept up over the years, it’s comforting to see the most intriguing fragment of his work is still surpassing previous projects.  “Judge” is my personal favorite in this category, carrying out a gazey-grunge style musically and emanating powerful words such as:

“All the time
I try to recall
What drove you away from here
What was dream and what was real
Where was I

That day meant nothing to me
A hiccup in my memory
This life will leave you hungry
I am completely guilty”

Even cheesier or more straightforward lines carried out on tracks like “Bobby” create effortless imagery that is propelled by the adolescent inflection of this duet.

“I paint pictures of my heart
The colors blue and purple start
To bleed into an endless dark
It’s only you it’s only you”

While these lyrics stick and please the standards that Alex G has set for his writing, it is admittable that the themes of his tunes are beginning to weigh thin.

Verdict

Rocket showcases some of Alex G’s most versatile talent to date, holding a heavy focus on not leaning on one sound for too long.  While some more folk centered tracks rely upon tired techniques and certain tracks orders could benefit from better placement, this record is a welcome addition to G’s discography and long-term fans shouldn’t have an issue getting into the tracks presented here.  That being said, Rocket may not be for listeners expecting a reinvented artist.  My honest opinion of this album is a 7/10.

Real Estate: In Mind

Real Estate return for another dreamy, soft-surf rock record that continues to reinforce their ever-present stereotype for being everyone’s favorite background music band.

Nothing that the group showcases on this record is inherently bad by any means.  The mundane nature only appears in the context of the previous albums, in which little creative evolution seems to have occurred from the first release to this point.  Needless to say, I would not recommend this record to any first time listeners of the band.

In Mind feels like the weakest addition to the band’s existing collection.  It is as if every track on this album is borrowing techniques from some of their catchier tunes but in a way that feels almost too complacent; like the band understands their place as coffee shop ambiance aficionados.

Real Estate’s lyrics haven’t improved either and in some ways, are beginning to develop a level of corniness that is difficult to sit through when focusing too hard on what is being said.  Still, this record is not completely barren of quality

Naming off the good characteristics of this collection, there are a few tracks that stand out amidst of the plagued list of rehash.  “Darling” harkens back to the peppiness of the late track “Talking Backwards”, featured on the 2014 record Atlas.  The washy tone of the guitars in the bridge section has a mildly soothing effect that can be enjoyed without a doubt.  “Serve the Song” is another decent track and features a duet between the vocals and guitar that builds into a sort-of-awesome solo towards the end of the song.

“Two Arrows” is an example of a song that could have been so much more.  With its trotting pace and entrancing vocal harmonies, the song builds to a solid wall of disappointment once the hook begins its repeating riff that amounts to a distortion climax that feels about as forced as the abrupt cut that ends the track.

Other lackluster moments exist in “Time”, a completely directionless slurred islander tune that includes another set of mundane lyrics that can’t even pass as filler.  I would probably like this track a little bit more if it were only an instrumental.

Digressing, In Mind feels like a stalling point in Real Estate’s career, for now.  If you have loved everything the group has put out thus far and are content with hearing more of the same then this album might be for you.  For me, my honest opinion of this album is a 5.8/10.