Everything about Alex Giannascoli’s music is a mystery. There are his lyrics, which seem autobiographical, yet reveal nothing. His lighter-than-air vocals, which vanish at times in his own songs. And the music itself- Byrds-like pop, synths, effects-laden psych guitars, electronic drum beats – all not as much harmoniously blended as jumbled together into a sour mash. It should be a mess. Instead, it’s luminous. Giannascoli has self-released several EP’s and albums over the years. Since signing with Domino and having more time to spend on his still largely homemade recordings, he’s found a more appreciative audience. Sugar, named for Philly’s SugarHouse casino – a former sugar mill, isn’t a confectionary. “Hope” is an unsentimental look at an unnamed fallen friend. The album’s best song, “Southern Sky”, seems to be a dream about his brother, but you’re never quite sure. “I count black sheep on my way to sleep,” he sings, “I can’t pick and choose these devils/In my patterned dreams.” The melody strains to climb above ethereal chiming. Elsewhere, there are abrupt stylistic turns. “Project 2” is an eerie industrial instrumental, “In My Arms” a melancholy Big Star-like ode to lost love, “Gretel” a noise-pop drone. Giannascoli takes a lot of chances – he seems determined to not repeat himself – and not everything works. But in a Brian Wilson-in-a-sandbox way, the creative scope of his work is breathtaking.
Review by Jeff McCord