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Event InformationAt the end of ‚ÄúPoison Root,‚ÄĚ the opening track on Alex Giannascoli‚Äôs new album, Rocket, the 23-year-old artist repeats the phrase ‚ÄúNow, I know everything‚ÄĚ again and again, his voice seething over a clatter of banjo, violin, and acoustic guitar sounds. It‚Äôs difficult to ascertain the exact tone: does he really think he knows everything? Or are these incantations a form of self-assurance, covering up insecurity? The tension between ambition and self-doubt in this closing refrain is typical of Rocket‚Äôs fourteen tracks. Over musical backdrops that effortlessly jump from sound collage to country pop to dreamy folk music, the cast of characters that Alex G inhabits have fun, fall in love, develop obsessions, get into trouble, and burn out. Rocket illustrates a cohesive vision of contemporary experience that‚Äôs dark and foreboding, perhaps especially because of how familiar, or to use Alex‚Äôs word, ‚Äúunassuming,‚ÄĚ the settings are.
With a goat-adorned cover painted by Alex‚Äôs sister, Rachel, Rocket is the Philadelphia-based artist‚Äôs eighth full-length release‚ÄĒan assured statement that follows a slate of humble masterpieces, many of them self-recorded and self-released, stretching from 2010‚Äôs RACE to his 2015 Domino debut, Beach Music. Rocket‚Äôs sessions began shortly after Beach Music‚Äôs ended, with Alex tracking songs at home, by himself and with friends, in the gaps between a hectic 2015 and 2016 touring schedule. Both albums were mixed by Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Bass Drum of Death), who lent them a fine-tuning that retains the homespun personality of earlier efforts.
Amid the process, in the fall of 2016, Alex made headlines for reasons outside his own releases. He had caught the attention of Frank Ocean, who asked him to play guitar on his two 2016 albums, Endless and Blonde. More than any stylistic cues, what Alex took from the experience was a newfound confidence in collaboration. ‚ÄúI always have a hard time letting people play on my stuff,‚ÄĚ he says, ‚Äúbut I saw how comfortable [Ocean] was using other people‚Äôs playing.‚ÄĚ Alex‚Äôs previous albums are largely solo affairs, but Rocket wears this collaborative spirit proudly. Touring band members Samuel Acchione and John Heywood contribute guitar and bass, both soloing on ‚ÄúCounty‚ÄĚ; Samuel‚Äôs brother Colin plays bass on two songs as well. Emily Yacina, a more frequent collaborator, sings on ‚ÄúBobby‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúAlina,‚ÄĚ and Molly Germer shows up throughout the album on violin and vocals. Germer‚Äôs violin was a game-changer, as the instrument ‚Äúadded a texture that I can‚Äôt get on my own,‚ÄĚ Alex notes.
The looser, collaborative approach helped cultivate the variety of musical styles that Rocket presents. The dense, folky cluster of ‚ÄúPoison Root‚ÄĚ leads to the bouncing country-rock of ‚ÄúProud,‚ÄĚ which is followed by the sophisticated harmonies of jazz-pop tune ‚ÄúCounty.‚ÄĚ Later, the freaky, frantic ‚ÄúWitch‚ÄĚ unsettles the album‚Äôs pop sensibility, while instrumentals ‚ÄúHorse‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúRocket‚ÄĚ set a more placid mood‚ÄĒthat is, until the distorted, beat-driven ‚ÄúBrick‚ÄĚ destroys any feelings of serenity exuded by the surrounding songs. Rocket ends with a rollicking free-for-all, ‚ÄúGuilty,‚ÄĚ that in its numerous contributors and blaring saxophone synthesizes the album‚Äôs communal feel and restless sense of musical experimentation.
In addition to its fluid network of musical styles, Rocket showcases Alex‚Äôs ability to project the perspectives of several characters while maintaining a strong personal voice. Whereas Beach Music‚Äôs lyrics outlined vague situations, with Rocket Alex was ‚Äútrying to create narratives that anybody could still inhabit,‚ÄĚ he says, ‚Äúbut that had a more concrete quality.‚ÄĚ He takes on the voice of memorable personalities such as what seems like an over-confident boy (‚ÄúPowerful Man‚ÄĚ), an alienated schoolgirl (‚ÄúAlina‚ÄĚ), and a couple with a creepily ambivalent relationship (‚ÄúBobby‚ÄĚ). Their stories are at turns heartbreaking, puzzling, and hilarious; yet no matter the setting or the way he manipulates his voice, you always get an ineffable sense of ‚ÄúAlex G‚ÄĚ as well as what he refers to as ‚Äúan American perspective.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúProud,‚ÄĚ the album‚Äôs longest (and perhaps catchiest) track, depicts a guarded, potentially disingenuous conversation. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm so proud of you,‚ÄĚ the narrator says. But later, their sincerity falls away: ‚ÄúI wanna be a fake like you‚Ä¶,‚ÄĚ they add. ‚ÄúI just wanna play the game.‚ÄĚ The chorus strikes an earnest note‚ÄĒthat the person singing works not to play ‚Äúthe game‚ÄĚ but to provide for their ‚Äúbaby.‚ÄĚ Yet Alex makes sure that it‚Äôs never perfectly clear who‚Äôs talking, or who believes what, casting doubt over an otherwise personable, inviting song. Track eight, ‚ÄúSportstar,‚ÄĚ traces another uncertain‚ÄĒthough, in this case, one-sided‚ÄĒdialogue. Here, the narrator is an obsessive fan of the titular ‚Äúsportstar‚ÄĚ who, with pitched-up vocals and atop a melancholic piano lead, recites stalker-like requests that range from benign (‚ÄúLet me tie your Nikes‚ÄĚ) to violently sexual (‚ÄúCould you hit me too hard‚ÄĚ). That the ‚Äúsportstar‚ÄĚ remains anonymous speaks to Rocket‚Äôs open-endedness. Even if the stories are grounded in specific ideas and real experiences, Alex paints pictures that leave room for listeners to share in the events‚ÄĒto interpret them however they‚Äôd like, without regard for a ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ answer.
‚ÄúI want [Rocket] to be completely unassuming,‚ÄĚ Alex says. ‚ÄúI wanted it to be full of these characters that don‚Äôt know how crazy they are.‚ÄĚ Rocket doesn‚Äôt have a pointed theme so much as these general feelings of unsteadiness and incomprehension‚ÄĒfeelings we remember from growing up and that creep into the everyday life of adulthood as well. In some ways, the album‚Äôs title encapsulates this sense: ‚ÄúI like the word ‚Äėrocket‚Äô because it sounds immature, attention-seeking,‚ÄĚ Alex explains. But while rockets certainly make a big impression, they also burn out. On Rocket, the myopic characters teeter between the initial explosion and the ultimate burning out. Alex himself, though, in a collection of songs that‚Äôs both his tightest and most adventurous, is poised only for the ascent.
(Sandy) Alex G
Caius Burns, √ď
Venue Address:The Bodega
23 Pelham Street
Venue Information:Universally regarded by locals and students alike as one of the best places to hang out, party and listen to live music in Nottingham - the Bodega is a must visit venue that has been at the very forefront of the midlands music scene over the past two decades. With a multitude of awards under it's belt including Best Medium Bar at the Best Bar None awards 2011, the Bodega holds its own as a great all rounder whilst having cemented itself a reputation for bringing world class stadium and festival-headlining talent to audiences before they made it big. The Bodega also won ‚ÄúBest Small Bar‚ÄĚ (Judges vote) at 2013 and 2014 Best Bar None Awards.
Info Line: 0115 9505078
Bar open from 4pm Monday to Saturday.
Happy Hour: 4pm - 7pm.
Concerts: Early show doors will open sometime around 7 - 7.30pm and close 10 - 10.15pm. Regular opening doors 8pm with a curfew of 11pm.
Disability information:Disabled Info: Please contact the venue directly for more information on 0115 950 5078 or online at http://www.bodeganottingham.com/venue-info/123-disability-access-information
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