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      (Sandy) Alex G in Seattle

      • (Sandy) Alex G Photo #1
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      November 3, 2019

      Sunday   7:00 PM

      925 E Pike Street
      Seattle, Washington 98122

      (Sandy) Alex G

      with Tomberlin, Slow Pulp
      Theres hardly a second when Alex Giannascolis voice cant be heard in Walk Away, the opener of his latest album, House of Sugar. The distended, pitched-up wail that introduces the track gives way to cascading layers of his more familiar intonations. Someday Im gonna walk away from you, he sings; not today. These are the songs only words, repeated again and again for more than four minutes. In the repetition, emphasis shifts from someday to not today" and back, leaving the listener in a space of uncertainty. Its in this space that Giannascolithe 26-year-old artist better known as (Sandy) Alex Glingers throughout the albums thirteen songs: between backwards and forwards, past and future, one voice and another. On House of Sugar, his third full-length for Domino and ninth overall, Alex inhabits a diverse range of musical and emotional points-of-view (often simultaneously), in turn illuminating the tension that hides in the shadow of desire.Giannascoli began writing these songs in the fall of 2017, having just finished a tour for House of Sugars acclaimed predecessor, Rocket, and moved into a new apartment in Philadelphia. Whereas with earlier efforts, such as 2011s self-released Winner or the landmark 2014 release DSU, hed write numerous songs fairly quickly, with House of Sugar Giannascoli worked at a steadier pace, concentrating on fewer songs and laboring over each one more than before.After building the tracks at home, recording most of the guitars, keyboards, and vocals himself, Giannascoli enlisted some recurring bandmates and collaborators to help realize further aspects of the album: Samuel Acchiones wailing electric guitar on Walk Away, John Heywoods bass underneath Taking, Tom Kellys drums giving Hope its bounce, Molly Germer underscoring Southern Sky on violin. Throughout the process Giannascoli worked closely with Jacob Portrait, who mixed both Rocket and its predecessor, 2015s Beach Music, and here helped to balance each of House of Sugars dense, multi-faceted tracks. As the product of extended focus and planning, House of Sugar emerges as Giannascolis most meticulous, cohesive album yet: a statement of artistic purpose, showing off his ear for both persistent earworms and shifting textures.Which is to say, cohesive doesnt imply that House of Sugar dispenses with the out-there sonic adventurism thats made previous (Sandy) Alex G records so singular. Giannascoli recorded with a clone of the Neumann U87 microphone, built by Tom Kellythe first time hed ever used a microphone other than the Samson Q1U USB mic that he got as a teenager. The new mic, coupled with an updated version of Garageband that came with a replacement laptop, provided Giannascoli a new toolkit for home-recording, prompting him to analyze the types of sounds hed been making and that he wanted to make. In addition to bolstering the rich, polished mix of its rock-oriented songs, the new equipment allowed for a broad range of unique technical experiments that provide each track emotional and tonal complexity. This includes not only the otherworldly vocals that haunt songs such as Walk Away, Taking, and Bad Man, but also the more subtle hums and echoes that texture Hope and Gretel, and the distorted soundscapes into which listeners of Sugar and Near are immersed.Throughout, the multiplicity of Giannascolis voice evokes the hybrid existence of a science-fiction creature, at once human and something else. Indeed, in many ways, hybridity defines House of Sugar. The lines between characters and narrators are perpetually blurry, allowing room for artist and listener alike to move through the songs, to access their shifting headspaces. On Southern Sky, we hear a voice other than Giannascolis own: frequent collaborator Emily Yacina, who sang on Rockets Bobby, among other (Sandy) Alex G songs. The pairs voices intertwine as they follow the tracks meandering pathway. Its steady country-rock bounce belies the extent to which Southern Sky changes as it flows alonghow it starts with a discordant piano run and ends with the lilting strum of a single acoustic guitar, a disturbed (and unintentional) echo of Neil Youngs Harvest Moon. The distinction between beginning and end, at first concealed by a tight composition, is emblematic of the way House of Sugar works as a whole: throughout the album Giannascoli makes you think that something is one way before revealing, often almost imperceptiblymaybe not until its too latethat its probably another. The stakes are often high in this regard. The dramatic action pose depicted on the albums cover (as always, painted by Giannascolis sister, Rachel) points to the feelings of precarity evoked within. Just as the figure skater looks poised to either succeed or fall, House of Sugars characters are constantly teetering on the edge of extremes, approaching either bliss or violenceunless its both at the same time. Theyre manipulated (Gretel) and manipulative (Crime); up in the sky (Sugar) and buried in the dirt (Bad Man). Caught in the ambiguous spaces of the songs, House of Sugars characters are disposed toward the badMusic makes me wanna do bad things, sings Giannascoli on In My Armsbut seemingly reaching for the good. Or, are they? Could bad be good, sweet be sour? While each track hints at concrete situations derived from either Giannascolis life or a covert array of literary and filmic sources, none excludes a host of oppositional possibilities that listeners can generate and regenerate themselves.The albums final track, SugarHouse, opens with applause: it was recorded at a 2018 concert in St. Louis, with a saxophone overdubbed later, the first time Giannascoli has implemented a live recording on a studio album. (In 2018, though, he released a Live at Third Man Records LP.) A brooding, flowing anthem, SugarHouse shares its name with a casino not far from Giannascolis home in Philadelphia; as the song unfolds, the casino emerges as a suggestive site for the album as a whole. Its first verse echoes the various moments when a House of Sugar protagonist realizes that highs are always temporary, that what seems sweet often isnt. SugarHouse is calling my bluff, Giannascoli sings. But, in the second verse, his characterunknown and brokennevertheless professes faith in where he is and who hes with. Nothing is definitive, but after thirteen songs of being split apart and spread around, through these relationships, in the House of Sugar, he might finally be put together again.

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