Review: Alex G’s New Singles “Bobby” & “Witch”

Posted: by The Editor

alex g tonje thilesen

Photo by Tonje Thilesen

After a painfully quiet 2016 for Alex G, a songwriter who has more content in his “unreleased”—not to mention his official—catalog than almost any other 23-year-old in existence, the Philly multi-instrumentalist released two new songs yesterday from his forthcoming album Rocket. Set to drop May 19 via Domino Recordings, the record will be the much-anticipated follow-up to his polarizing 2015 effort Beach Music, an album that fully committed to the electronic instrumentation that he had only been dabbling with up until that point. Although many longtime fans felt it didn’t contend with his lo-fi, acoustic beginnings, Beach Music was his most cohesive record yet and a true testament to his versatility.

On both of these new singles, “Bobby” and “Witch,” Alex G once again demonstrates his refusal to remain stagnant. Harkening back to the very first song on his 2010 debut Race, “Bobby” uses a banjo, a fiddle, and a slide guitar to transform G’s forte—subtle, muted, though gorgeously constructed pop songs—into a full-on alt-country jamboree. This track has the fullness and melodicism to surpass what was previously his most accessible song, “Brite Boy,” which by virtue makes this one of the oddest in his discography; frequent repetition of a hook and near-constant harmonization with a vocalist other than himself (frequent collaborator Emily Yacina’s vocals are stunningly complementary here) are both novel concepts within the world of Alex G. Although it always seemed like a logical fit, “Bobby” is his first real devotion to pure folk music and he wears it exceedingly well.

Contrary to the warm catchiness of “Bobby,” “Witch” can be appropriately described as traditional Alex G. The song has no formal structure to it, oddly manipulated vocals, and creepy, minor key chord progressions that recall much of his unreleased material and the direction he was taking during the Rules and DSU era. The clangy synths that’re wafting over his acoustic strumming evoke some sort of demented children’s toy and the reverb he laced his vocals with creates a disorienting effect. Interestingly, the track somehow becomes more focused once he adds in a second vocal track of himself singing, “no matter what you do,” in an eerie, pitch-shifted falsetto that we haven’t heard from him since the wacky “Icehead” off of DSU.

Releasing these two songs together wasn’t simply a kind gesture to his starving fanbase, it was a calculated reassurance that not only is Alex G continuing to evolve, but that he’s not doing it at the expense of his core sound; a sound that’s truly distinct, even in an age oversaturated with new music.

Eli Enis | @eli_enis