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(Sandy) Alex G - House of Sugar (Album Review)

Friday, 20 September 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Tonje Thilesen

On ‘House of Sugar’, (Sandy) Alex G is more than happy to make us wait for our hit. A sprawling piece that slots endearing, wonky Americana songs between extended stretches of electronic navel-gazing, it is a record that must be appreciated as a whole if only for the deliberate nature of its construction.

The temptation in situations like this is to suggest that clipping the album’s competing elements into two cohesive parts would produce better results. But ‘House of Sugar’ rejects that idea wholeheartedly. 

Its determination to meander adds a greater sense of excitement when a warm melody does finally begin to bubble through the speakers—take the somnambulistic, looped opener Walk Away’s segue into the ramshackle, nylon-strung strut of Hope.

Similar thought is given to texture, with Southern Sky following in its wake. After taking the verses Alex G passes the baton to Emily Yacina, whose gorgeous, rough-hewn delivery of the chorus is played off against brittle strings. It is a subtle shift, really little more than a change in personnel, that lifts the song and sets it apart from the nominally similar Hope.

The record’s midsection is designed to test the listener’s patience. Gretel combines its twin ambitions in a wavy, latter-day-Shins fusion of melody and widescreen electronica, but soon ‘House of Sugar’ spins free of its melodic orbit. It circles back—notably on the low-key earworm Bad Man—but the real joy is found in viewing moments like this as a detour. Once we reach the closing trio of acoustic-led almost-ballads, it feels like a slow march back to the surface.

At a time when the chop and change convenience of streaming has reshaped how we consume music, ‘House of Sugar’ is a bloody-minded exercise in crafting a back-to-front album. It has the capacity to be hugely rewarding, but it won’t let us forego the legwork. Skip to the end? Sure, but only if you want to miss the real point of the journey.

Sandy Alex G Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri February 07 2020 - LIVERPOOL Phase one
Sat February 08 2020 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Sun February 09 2020 - GLASGOW St Lukes
Mon February 10 2020 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Wed February 12 2020 - LONDON EartH
Fri February 14 2020 - BRISTOL Thekla
Sat February 15 2020 - BRIGHTON Old Market

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