Album Of The Week: Alex G – God Save The Animals

Faith and personal morality is at the centre of the Philadelphia songwriter's sparkling and endearing new LP

Philadelphia singer-songwriter Alex Giannoscoli has long been described as a ‘cult’ figure, and for a while this might have been true. His introverted demeanour and preference out of the limelight adds a sense of enigma, while the term seems to neatly wrap up his border-less and hard-to-describe take on indie rock — esoteric yet curiously approachable. Then of course there was the parenthetical (Sandy) phase, then the whole It’s just Alex G now chatter that followed.

But like it or not, Alex G left the fringes years ago, and if you needed more convincing of this then take his work with Frank Ocean, or his recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Or, better still, take God Save The Animals, Giannoscoli’s ninth album (his fourth on Domino) that seems to filter and elevate the strongest elements of his life’s work.

Alex G - Runner (Official Video)

Accessible isn’t quite the right word; the garbles and contortions that entangle and prick his melodic stretches like a rose’s thorns still emerge. On ‘Cross The Sea’ they pull an otherwise meditative piece of auto-tune acoustic pop into a melodramatic darkness, while on ‘No Bitterness’ they appear as wailing, uncanny valley human voices while shards of reversed tape cut and glimmer through them.

But they are in shorter supply, giving space for some of Giannoscoli’s strongest melodies. Slow burner ‘Mission’ has the warm glow of campfire singalong, and single ‘Runner’ may be one of his most endearing songs yet. For the first time the singer stepped out of the confines of his bedroom to enlist the help of local engineers at various studios in Philly, which audibly adds depth and sparkle in the textural layers.

Alex G - Blessing (Official Video)

But perhaps what gives God Save The Animals its strongest sense of coherence is its tight thematic focus of faith and morality. Like a man on his deathbed, Giannoscoli weighs up the sins and virtues of his life. “Yes I have done a couple bad things,” he admits on ‘Runner’, while often reverting to imagery of childhood and its association of innocence for penance: “My teacher is a child/ With a big smile/ No bitterness”.

Thankfully he resists sounding pushy or preachy, using faith as a tool of self-examination. Yes, he takes upon his own biblical persona, not just Noah in the record’s title but perhaps even Jesus himself, crossing seas and rising from floods, but soon returns as their subject — “God is my designer/ Jesus is my lawyer…”.

Alex G tours the UK March 2023. Tickets are available here.