(Sandy) Alex G: “Gretel”

The expanded (Sandy) Alex G universe is filled with wayward characters, misfits, and outcasts used in song as cautionary tales; a drug dealer, a bad roommate, crushes with hearts tough as leather. All along, though, there’s this prevailing sense of trying to do better, to make right by his friends, his lovers, his dog Harvey. On “Gretel,” his first track since 2017’s Rocket and the first single off his forthcoming album House of Sugar, it’s hard not to read those titles as a reference to the Grimms’ fairytale of greed gone astray, with Alex G serving as a narrator desperately clinging to the straight and narrow. “Nobody’s gonna push me off track,” he sings, deadly serious.

“Gretel” also marks a return to the style of his earlier recordings for the Philadelphia artist, dominated by an acoustic guitar and backgrounded with a metallic piano that recalls an organ. Whereas much of Rocket felt like it was trying to create distance with Auto-Tuned vocal processing and reverberating synthesizers, there is an intimacy to the finger-picked progression in the bridge, the swirling strings that accent the song’s final third. But “Gretel” still features the hypnotic circuitousness that unites his songwriting, a deceptive gentleness in the way the warbled, pitched-up vocals of the intro return in the fading coda. Paired with the paranoiac repetitions in his lyrics, it seems ready to unravel at any moment.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/gretel/

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