Ever since I heard about Alex G, I’ve held kind of a grudge against him. And why wouldn’t I? The Philly singer-songwriter basically has my name, and is a younger (he’s 24), better looking, more successful version of me. I’m 31, and have no Pitchfork-approved new album, Frank Ocean collaboration, or bourgeoning Internet buzz to show for myself. Nevertheless, I decided to check out his sold-out show at Toronto’s Velvet Underground over the weekend. And sweet merciful crap, was I ever humbled.
But before (Sandy) Alex G — he was recently forced to add “(Sandy)” to his name for legal reasons (which I had nothing to do with, I swear) — took me down a few pegs, opening act Japanese Breakfast made me feel just as small. Mostly because this solo project by Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner sounds so damn big.
Coming off a tour with shoegaze legends Slowdive, Zauner and her three-piece band sounded appropriately floaty, ethereal, and hypnotic, effortlessly segueing from the shimmering pop of last year’s breakout LP Psychopomp to the robotic thump of their upcoming album Soft Sounds From Another Planet.
These guys sound a lot like the Drive soundtrack — specifically that scene where it turns out Ryan Gosling isn’t dead and, instead of going home to make sweet love to Carey Mulligan, he decides to just go cruising and shit.
Then it was time for my namesake to completely decimate my self-worth. (Sandy) Alex G took the stage with his four-piece band, launching into a slew of bangers from critically-adored eighth album (Eighth! That’s how prolific this bastard is!) Rocket. “Judge” is a brooding, synth-heavy tune that sounds like something Kurt Cobain might’ve penned were he still alive (and still miserable) in 2017, while “Bobby” and “Proud” — featuring glorious violin work by Molly Germer — are country-pop gems that made me realize I like country-pop.
It doesn’t take long while watching a (Sandy) Alex G show to figure out just why he has such a massive Internet following. The kid’s got songs. Songs of all shapes and colours. From the wistful alt-pop of “Bug” to the scuzzy noise-hop of “Brick” to the quirky jazz of “Country,” he’s got a maddeningly eclectic repertoire — a songwriter for an ADD-afflicted, playlist generation.
That freewheeling sensibility stems partly from his songwriting method — he records all his songs by his lonesome, in his bedroom. Some may call this self-indulgent. But the only thing (Sandy) Alex G is truly guilty of indulging in is a high-yielding pop sensibility. With his teeth gritted and his eyes transfixed to the back of the room, every number this young scalawag belted was a highly communicable earworm. Despite ranging wildly in genre, all his songs carry a similar cathartic resonance — obtuse melodies that feel at once bewildering and strangely familiar, nailing you right in the feels all the while. He’s part Built to Spill, part Elliot Smith, part nothing I’ve ever heard before. The guy is a shapeshifting, generational talent — and the scariest part about him is he has yet to truly peak as an artist.
All of which is to say that I now feel incredibly aged and obsolete. I guess it’s time I threw in the towel and made way for this hyper-talented next generation. At least us Old Millennials can take solace in the fact that our descent into decrepitude will have a killer soundtrack, courtesy of gifted Young Millennials like (Sandy) Alex G — and that said soundtrack will likely be subsidized by their parents.