Alex G – DSU (Orchid Tapes, 2014)

21 year-old Alex Giannascoli is prolific, to say the least. A Philadelphia native, the singer-songwriter has become sort of a local legend, with a slew of material on his Bandcamp page. After several self-released albums, DSU (debut release on Brooklyn indie Orchid Tapes) finds Giannascoli more polished and focused than ever before. In its brief 33 minute run lies some of the most rich, vivacious, quirky, and heartbreaking downer pop I’ve heard all year.

While most of the record seems to boil down to a string of separate 3-minute-or-less sound experiments, what we actually get is a collage of artistic ideas that strike the balance between curt and fleshed out, juvenile and sobering. This is a warped yet beautifully sad soundscape that Giannascoli weaves, whether it is the macabre merry-go-round closing “Rejoyce” or the waves of horror movie shrieks that pervade “Axesteel.” The record manages to feel both current and yet a letter to singer-songwriters past. The guitar work on “Skipper” in particular feels eerily similar to that of Elliott Smith, a la “Kiwi Maddog 20/20” One of the album’s greatest and most centered moments is on “Hollow”. Amid the multitude of sounds and the flurry in which they pass, Giannascoli balances it all in a moment of sobering realism: “I know I’m hollow.” However, the moment that feels most out of place and quite possibly the most mature happens on album closer “Boy”.  Repeatedly reassuring us that he is “not the boy you knew,” Giannascoli makes a bold statement, one that serves best as the thesis for the record. As a man coming into his twenties with the pains of past experience, he is sounding his best here, and DSU feels like a confident step forward for this diverse and multi-faceted artist. I sincerely hope we hear more from him soon.

Key tracks: “After Ur Gone”, “Harvey”, “Black Hair”, “Sorry”, “Icehead”, “Hollow”, “Boy”