Pennsylvania multi-instrumentalist Alexander Giannascoli has been recording lo-fi indie rock in his bedroom and releasing it under the name Alex G since 2010. On his seventh release Beach Music, his first for the Domino label, Alex delivers a mostly uneven collection of thirteen contemplative, fragile songs that span the musical spectrum from Elliot Smith-inspired pop to angular guitar jams reminiscent of Pavement.
After a brief, cacophonous, industrial introduction, appropriately titled “Intro”, Beach Music rolls in a chug-a-chug Sentridoh-like acoustic guitar number called “Bug” which features Alex alternately singing in his gentle, barely comprehensible, shy mumble and a pitched-up, hackneyed version of his vocals that make him sound like a chipmunk. The awkwardly jazzy and somewhat atonal “Thorns” follows before the album’s heaviest, and strongest song, “Kicker” closes out the largely unfocused first third of the album.
Unfortunately, just as Beach Music seems like it’s opening up and finding its footing, it collapses with a weak and meandering middle cluster of tracks that includes the confusing, psychedelic, layered echo-trip “Salt” and the warbled, watery vocals of “Look Out”. The poppy duet “Brite Boy” and the intentionally weakly sung piano and trumpet ballad “In Love” are somewhat charming, but they feel out of place given the rudderless sequencing of the record’s first handful of songs.
The final third of Beach Music has a few highlights, but by this point the album is just digging itself out from its troubled center. These better moments may have had a greater overall effect in lifting the record if not for the frustration brought on by the teased optimism that quickly disappeared under banal affectations and dismal experimentalism.
Alex G’s songwriting is at its strongest when he’s channeling his mid-to-late 1990s indie rock heroes. It’s when the same songs that highlight these inspirations slide into hallucinatory, reverb-heavy, muddied chaos that Beach Music goes off the proverbial rails.