By Max Semenczuk, Contributor
Key tracks: “Cow”, “In My Arms”, “Hope”
House of Sugar, (Sandy) Alex G’s follow-up to his critically and commercially acclaimed Rocket, is here. Alex G has an expansive résumé, and like his past endeavors, he stays true to his tradition of recording his own work on his newest album.
House of Sugar is a strange and refreshing album, as it’s full of tempo shifts, unique samples and glitchy sound effects that resemble 2000s Radiohead. Alex G takes new musical risks and progresses toward a more industrialized sound while maintaining what made his previous endeavors so memorable: the esoteric yet effective songwriting.
The album begins with “Walk Away”, where Alex G moans over jangly and mellow acoustic guitar chords before the instrumentation explodes into a unique symphonic arrangement that is both natural and electronic. The track has solid instrumentation and sets an accurate tone for the rest of the album, though the song’s lyrics are lackluster.
For the remainder of the album, Alex G experiments with dead space and interludes, making his lyrics much more impactful when they are heard. The most poignant lyrics come in “Hope”, a track covering the disparity of death of a close friend, and “Cow”, an insightful take on love. Alex G goes into great detail, getting in the head of the listener; he is just broad enough with his lyricism that all can relate.
The pacing of the album is somewhat inconsistent, however. Near the middle of the album comes “Project 2”, a jarring, jagged instrumental that brings the listener into a glitchy soundscape that clashes with the album’s natural and refined closing tracks. Following that, the jump between tracks “Bad Man” and “Sugar” stand out as well. Alex G paints an interesting picture of a dystopian future with imagery of dropping bombs and a melancholic overtone, but he does nothing to further this narrative beyond the song “Bad Man”. These are standout examples, though, as the pacing of House of Sugar is mostly seamless and engaging.
Despite a few pacing issues and lyrical inconsistencies, House of Sugar ultimately holds a beautiful sonic soundscape and tackles themes of isolation, death and love that are accompanied by some of the most unique instrumentals seen this year.