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(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket (Album Review)

Thursday, 25 May 2017 Written by Jennifer Geddes

At first glance, 'Rocket' is a sonically disjointed collection of tracks with no overarching lyrical narrative. Yet it’s not without a sense of cohesion. Inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and the work of John Steinbeck, here (Sandy) Alex G views the darker side of the American dream through a millennial, post-modern lens.

(Sandy) Alex G has previously expanded his sound beyond the realms of lo-fi indie, but these tracks often explore these outer reaches on a much deeper level. The frequent departures are sporadic and rarely signposted, which is what makes them feel so dissonant.

The predominant musical influence here is country. (Sandy) Alex G draws upon the genre’s traditional instrumentation, introducing banjo and violin alongside acoustic guitar and piano, on Poison Root, Bobby, Rocket and Powerful Man.

On some tracks, meanwhile, he embraces the imagery associated with Americana. On Powerful Man he sings: “Had a dream about a promised land / Walkin' round with a big gun in my hand.” County follows a similar theme: “I'm playing poker and / He's two cells over.”

County is a low-lit jazz funk track, though, as is the closing track, Guilty. (Sandy) Alex G plays with anachronisms, pulling influences from across America’s musical history in the manner downloads and streaming have allowed us to do.

‘Rocket’ comes off the back of his contributions to Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ and ‘Endless’, on which he played guitar, and we duly time travel right up to the sounds of modern America. Ocean’s influence can be heard on Sportstar, especially its synthesized vocals, which reappear on Judge. The track even references Nikes, harking back to Ocean’s song of the same name.

What links early America to the present day is the journey towards an imagined better life. On Proud, Alex G sings “Wanna be a star like you” and later “I just wanna play the game”. On Sportstar he proclaims: “My dream / Let me play on your team / I'm clean / Let me tie your Nikes / Holding on for sportstar."

There’s a downside to the dream, though, as (Sandy) Alex G goes on to explain during the chorus of Proud: “If I sink / I don't wanna be the one to leave my baby out without no bottle to drink / If I sink / I don't wanna be the one to leave my baby down without no money in her bank.”

Sometimes the underlying gloom here comes across as pure emotion. Also on Proud he sings “I'm better off dead” while on Bobby he says: “I paint pictures of my heart / The colours blue and purple start / To bleed into an endless dark / It’s only you it’s only you.”

He also expresses this facet of the record’s concept musically. Witch is an eerie dream-pop track, Horse a challenging avant garde instrumental and Brick an industrial punk song of noise and strained vocals. They only add to the strange palette.

As a traditional album ‘Rocket’ seems uneven, but when Frank Ocean - alongside the likes of Drake and Kayne West - is helping to popularise the playlist as a form of creative expression, it makes perfect sense. (Sandy) Alex G wanted the album to feel nostalgic but ‘Rocket’ is not a narrative tale, it's a feeling of delusion at the American dream.

Sandy Alex G Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 17 2017 - DUBLIN Whelans
Wed October 18 2017 - GLASGOW CCA
Thu October 19 2017 - MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Fri October 20 2017 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Mon October 23 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social Club
Tue October 24 2017 - LONDON Scala
Wed October 25 2017 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Thu October 26 2017 - BRIGHTON Patterns (ex Audio)

Click here to compare & buy Sandy Alex G Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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