The multi-layered eighth studio album by indie-rock mainstay (Sandy) Alex G has hit the streets. Nine musicians appear on the album all together, amassing into a heavy, complicated, jumbled work of electronic and traditional sounding tracks. Released by Domino Recording Company, House of Sugar is an opus of experimentation amongst Sandy’s budding cannon. The listener can imagine a crazy quilt while digesting the album. That might be the best mode of explanation if one were to visualize each participating member sewing their own patch. The work certainly covers the listener in what can only be described as sugar (the album’s title is inspired by the gingerbread house in “Hansel and Gretel” and the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia). The first track “Walk Away” is a welcoming introduction to what the rest of the album is: emotion hiding behind layers and loops of electronic and classical expression. Elliott Smith, Beck, John Frusciante might be influences of Alex G, but it is hard to truly tell as the bizarreness of the transitioning between each track stands out definitely. Perhaps in the YouTube age, each song a nugget, the carelessness is only appropriate. During “Southern Sky” one feels alone on a make-believe ranch, on “Sugar” it sounds as though we’ve been invaded by a superior extraterrestrial force, and yet, throughout, we are greeted by different interluding tracks which exude their own atmosphere albeit exclusively electronic.
Although this album is hardly traditional in its concept of linear track-by-track progression, this does not mean that the songs themselves are not worthwhile. In fact, the opposite is true, House of Sugar is truly a different conception. Each track is its own experiment with their own experience, save of course, the interluding tracks which do come off a bit unnecessary or at times overly atmospheric. Sandy even goes so far as to fake a southern accent in “Bad Man” where one can sense a tone of mockery at the meanness of people, singing forlornly he croons,
I’m a bad man, how about that? (So bad)
Going hungry on a pillar of fat (of fat)…
What river runs deeper than this?
Stamping on cigarettes, opening fists
There is strong lyricism throughout which often becomes blended into the instrumentation, confusing the meaning of words, enticing the listener to dig deeper. “Gretel”, the fourth track on the album, is the strongest from the work and can be considered of belonging to that new age of alternative sound pioneered by Modest Mouse, in which the listener is held in perpetual expectancy by whimpering vocals and minimalist guitar. What’s best about House of Sugar is the evidence of a culmination of Sandy’s past experiments, himself appearing to be slowly coming to a point. One can sense the invention of a sound uniquely and positively his own.