New Alex G album bends genres, brings welcome change


Indie mastermind Alex G released his new album, God Save the Animals, on Sept. 23, and it’s perhaps his most ambitious and experimental project yet. The tracklist blurs the line between genres, reaching into all corners of music for inspiration. There’s classic rock hooks, muddy lo-fi beats, auto-tuned vocals and dreamy pop leads, leaving everyone who listens with a sound they love and another to grow on them. Alex breaks his longstanding and quickly drying up formula for a new, exciting sound. 

The album opens with “After All,” an eerie, dark track with religious lyrics and anesthetized twangy guitar riffs. The pitch-shifted vocals chant: “After all/People come and people go away/Yeah, but God with me he stayed/But God with me he stayed,” and are pushed into a squeaky high-pitched range, reminiscent of similar vocals from 2014’s Trick. The song flows nicely with all its strange, mashed-together parts, and almost as a testament to what the old Alex would have done, a stripped back, unshifted vocal track closes out the song. “After All” is the opening act for God Save the Animals, and the band lineup is stacked.

“Runner” is a bit of a curveball. Perhaps the most vanilla track on the album, Runner hypnotizes the listener with a simple, poppy melody and crowd-friendly chanting. With warm guitars and loose piano, the song seems optimistic until the final verse, when Alex repeats “I have done a couple bad things/Yes, I have done a couple bad things” before letting out a satisfying scream as the song slowly comes to a close. “Runner” is an amazing example of just how effective subtle experimentation can be at breaking a formula, especially one as defined as Alex’s sound.

Immediately following “Runner” is “Mission,” a true highlight of the album’s more subtle side. Its powerful, low and grating strings match the message of the song; the power of perseverance. Alex’s voice sounds like it’s projected through gritted teeth, and it’s uncharacteristically low, within his comfortable range while still conveying emotion and strength. This tension of deep, gritty singing is released in the second verse, when a vocal track hidden low in the mix suddenly comes to the forefront, desperately belting “I lived a whole damn life/I kept my mission tight/Send my message to the chief, say/I did good/I stayed out of the heat.” In between verses are sections of eccentric and clanging piano keys, rattling away as pitch-shifted vocals follow the melody. Mission is a masterpiece, and the most accessible to new fans. Once they are ready to delve deeper into this strange album, there is no preparing them for what they will experience.

“S.D.O.S.” is where the masterful subtlety is shed for an equally effective and ambitious eccentricism. Opening with a deceptive, bare-bones guitar riff, it quickly segues into pounding synth notes and a strange percussion like a child ecstatically jumping on an old, squeaky trampoline. “S.D.O.S.” only proceeds to get weirder as a low, garbled voice repeats the same uneasy words, “Naked in my innocence/Tangled in my innocence.” This deep, almost demonic voice is then juxtaposed with a far harsher auto-tuned whine spouting cryptic and vaguely religious lyrics. “S.D.O.S.” is a childhood fever dream that barely manages to cling onto the deepest and furthest edges of memory.

Continuing themes of childhood and innocence is “No Bitterness,” perhaps the most memorable track on the album. The body of the song follows the formula of the album quite well; there is a guitar picking out notes over an ever-shifting soundscape of layered vocals and piano keys and a repeated chant, “My teacher/Is a child/With a big smile/No bitterness.” As the track continues past the halfway mark, however, the layers are peeled back, revealing a soft core of backing vocals and a swirling, reversed synth. As the chant ends yet again, Alex’s dry track returns only to beatbox. This is the point of no return, one where Alex embarks on perhaps his most ambitious song section and diversion from his typical folksy-indie sound to date. Distorted guitars kick in, spewing gritty chords as an auto-tuned voice mumbles, “Big questions in my mind/Big questions/Big questions.” A big, hefty synth rises to center-stage, building tension until a satisfying release into an exaggerated, high-energy pop chorus, complete with punchy drums and catchy lyrics: “I don’t want a good time/And open my mind/And if I cried/I really would like it/When I see your cell/I open my eyes/And it’s a lie/You never die.” Screeching guitars return to finish off the track with ever more intensity. “No Bitterness” is a track from a parallel universe, one that is perhaps the most creative and polished in Alex’s catalog. It’s the epitome of God Save the Animals, with all its pitch-shifted, cryptic and unpredictable glory.

The last of the album’s long run of outstanding songs, “Ain’t It Easy” is atmospheric and spacey. Jazz drums open the track complimented by pulsing guitar and soft vocalization. Forlorn and lonely lyrics sing of longing for another. Alex’s voice aches like one’s heart when they catch themselves daydreaming about someone long gone. The chorus is a solemn, raspy track, distorted as though it were traveling through a thick cloud of fog, whispering softly, “Ain’t it easy?” Reversed vocals lead to a near silent guitar break. From there drums softly lead to the next verse where there is a sudden burst of sonic emotion, filling up to the rim with soothing yet melancholic noise. “Ain’t It Easy” is a therapeutic track, a reason as good as any to confront one’s anxieties and learn to embrace them.

One of the final tracks, “Miracles” begins to wrap the album up with classic, folksy Alex G. Bright guitar diddles around careful and unashamed with Alex sings of the future, “I see great waves/Coming our way/Beautiful sunsets/On lost and lonely days.” Violin interludes bring back the country feel that dominated 2017’s Rocket. “Miracles” is nowhere near as memorable as most of the album, yet still it is masterfully simple: a calm, thoughtful ballad detailing Alex’s aging and his decision to have a baby. Because of this, “Miracles” is a perfect background track for every milestone in life.

God Save the Animals is a shocking, ambitious project that displays a variety of new sounds for Alex G. After a decade of similar, repetitive songs, Alex seems to have finally outgrown his old sound and is moving into a new, far fresher one. This album is a wild ride of whirling emotions, draped in auto-tune and plucky piano and is a must-listen for 2022.