By Tess Laren
The heart of Philadelphia’s music scene is pervaded by a blatant rejection of modern music production and the embracement of lo-fi, rough tracks. Weekends are filled with basement shows where silk screened t-shirts are sold for $10 and hand written notes cover the front door which say not to annoy the neighbors. It feels like 90’s grunge never ended and that I should probably be overhearing some middle school boy attempting to learn the chords to Smells Like Teen Spirit. So many bands attempt to make lo-fi, indie-rock music work but only one band in Philly actually does it right: Alex G.
Alex Giannascoli is the lead singer of Alex G and is overall a lyrical genius. This 22 year-old, introspective song writer has an uncanny ability to phrase universal feelings about growing up, relationships, and sadness in such a manner that you either think about them in entirely new ways or want to cry because you completely understand what he is saying. The beauty of his lyrics is that you do not register the sting of his words on first listen. His incredibly clever lyrics hide double meanings, rich narratives, and poignant connections. He describes his music as the tip of the iceberg, giving the listener just enough to understand the general concept of the song but leaving a certain ambiguity that lets one put their own spin or feelings into it.
Like many, Giannascoli's music career began in his bedroom, creating music on Garage Band and posting self-made albums to Bandcamp. He went along for years, a hidden gem, playing at house parties and small venues before gaining any real traction. But his music soon developed a cult following online and spread quickly from there. He attracted the attention of Orchid Tapes who released his first studio recorded album DSU (Dream State University). This album was very well received, essentially jumpstarting Giannascoli's career. Since then, he has signed with Domino Recording Company with whom he dropped his most recent album Beach Music around a year ago, as well as working with major names such as Frank Ocean, who featured Alex on tracks 9, 12, 18 and 18 of Endless.
Giannascoli delves headfirst into the shitty aspects of life through his music. In the song Change from the album Trick, he ends the song with “I didn’t mind being your crutch/we loved you then/it’s not the same /I don’t like how things change”. It's a beautiful summation of the pain of growing away from people you once loved. The topics he covers within his songs makes his appeal within the younger generation unsurprising. We are living in a world that tries to mask the imperfect nature of life and avoid the darker aspects of reality. This emphasis on perfection is seen in nearly all aspects of our lives from the carefully manicured profiles we see on social media to the auto-tuned voices on the radio. Both Lo-fi music and the community that surrounds it is inspired by the desire to separate from these ideas and to highlight the grittiness of life. Giannascoli embodies this philosophy, creating an authentic sound with both his lyricism and the general composition of his songs.
I saw Alex G on April 14, 2016 and it was by far the best concert I have ever been to. The people flanking my sides all donned outfits of similar composition: long sleeve graphic t shirt bought at the local salvation army, rolled black jeans, and doc martins. These people all gave off an air of trying a tinge too hard and this greatly juxtaposed with the vibes that Giannascoli gave off when he got onto stage. Wearing clothes that look like he has just pulled them from a corner in his room and his long, black hair in disarray, he was able to make the look that everyone in the crowd was trying to rock authentic. That’s the magic of Giannascoli, he is unapologetically himself and no one is able to mimic what he is able to do. In most interviews, he gives short responses that make him seem like his mind is too busy elsewhere to be interested in what is happening in front of him. It is this general looseness that keeps him at arm’s length from his listeners at live shows. When he got on stage, besides a few general jokes, he had no substantial interaction with the audience. He simply strummed the first few notes of Kicker and then entered a trancelike state where he rocked backwards and forwards with each beat of the music, most of the time with his back facing the audience. But the live performance injected the songs with a new vitality that greatly differed from the softer recorded versions. The trademark guitar solos boomed through the venue with a new power and his voice gained a new layer of depth that is often subdued in his recordings. You could almost feel his connection to the lyrics through the emotional, spastic way he manipulated his voice which went from a grating yell to a quiet whisper depending on the song. By the end of the show it becomes perfectly clear that there is in fact no distance between Giannascoli and the listener. He bares his soul and his stories in such a raw way through his songs that makes small talk before shows or interviews superfluous.
While I highly recommend listening to all of his stuff here are my five personal favorites: Kicker, Gnaw, Mary, Harvey, and Rules.