transitional moments

Alex G decided to remove the (Sandy) from his name a few weeks back and now my will feel slightly more inaccurate. Around this time three years ago I was the number one (Sandy) Alex G listener on (as I tagged all his records under his new name), giving me the lamest possible bragging rights when talking to disinterested Radiohead fans on the other side of the planet. That summer was a weird era of my life in hindsight – I’d stay up all night talking about menial things with someone who would later go on to soupify my brain, walk around Laois Shopping Centre in an insomnia-ridden haze in the hopes of staying awake, and then go home a few hours later and blare the same three or four albums until I eventually passed out. I think I’ve been listening to more music under lockdown than I did that summer but it just doesn’t feel as such – the words just seemed to mean more back then, even if that was just the result of solely using them as some weird method of escapism. I don’t remember exactly what spurred me on to actually listen to Alex Giannscoli’s discography that summer but I very quickly became obsessed with it, making up for lost time by looping tracks over and over until I went mental.

Giannscoli’s songwriting felt captivating due to how personal it seemed, you could quite literally hear him trying to find the microphone on his laptop in some of his first singles and that amateurish quality made his compositions feel authentic in some way. His work felt simultaneously juvenile yet engrossing like a really good episode of ‘Skins’ – it depicted an artificial, adolescent bleakness that I desperately wanted to chase after that summer. I think this comparison is best shown through the lyrics of ‘Nintendo 64’, an unofficial Alex track that I’d internally LARP to for hours on end. “My girlfriend told me that she doesn’t love me anymore / And I wish I didn’t care but I thought she was really cool / So I drank a ton of liquor then I threw up in her sink / She said next time use the toilet then she offered me a drink”. You knew it was fake (and not a particularly fun situation to be in) but it represented something larger, even if it was extremely immature. It felt like the life I wanted to lead, even if I knew that wasn’t possible in the first place.

Alex went on to remark in a 2017 interview (which took me forever to find) with Bandcamp Daily that he was no longer easily impressed by music. “It’s harder for me to get excited as I get older […] It’s no longer three chords and then I’m like, ‘This sounds amazing.’ Now, I go through all my options. I’m just more critical in general”. ‘Beach Music’, a record Alex released in 2015 is extremely interesting to me as you essentially see the musician grow critical of their own work in real-time – it feels like a transition from his earlier bedroom material to the more refined and experimental work he’s put out in recent years and that’s oddly exciting to me. Back in 2017 I saw a RateYourMusic review which referred to ‘Beach Music’ as Giannscoli’s “controversial album” and decided to start ironically referring to it as such, mainly just as it’d annoy one of my friends who kept on pointing out how conventional it seemed – it was just an Alex G record with slightly more synth lines and occasional pitch shifting and everyone else was insane for not recognizing as such. However I feel as if that complaint captures what made me obsess over this record three summers ago, it simultaneously captured the energy of Alex’s early tracks such as ‘Nintendo 64’ while also hinting towards the experimentation that made ‘Rocket’ stand out to me. ‘Beach Music’ was simultaneously balanced yet janky, Pitchfork contributor Pat Healy aptly compared this jankiness to the atonal signature sound of Pavement – “some of these arrangements beg for you to dismiss them, the way you might have the very first time you heard Pavement, but what at first feels sloppy and clogged is actually intricate upon closer inspection. Complicated arrangements and gorgeous melodies reveal themselves to you as rewards for your patience. Over time, even the alien voices begin to sound natural, even inviting”. ‘Beach Music’ feels like an aural checkpoint, which makes the fact that it served as the soundtrack to a major inbetween moment in my life fairly funny. It feels like the first few steps towards something new, even if those steps seem suspiciously similar to what you’re walking away from.

Iglooghost’s ‘Little Grids’ might be the optimal EP and that fact is gradually melting my brain. Iglooghost is the stage name of Seamus Malliagh, a 24-year old English producer who reluctantly made me first pay proper attention to electronic music. ‘Little Grids’ was described as consisting of 3 “short vignettes that function as glimpses into the antics of several unrelated beings”, condensing everything that made Iglooghost seem exciting down into an extremely sugary fifteen minutes. Malliagh’s creative output eludes clear description, implementing aspects of juke, glitch-pop, and wonky in a jittery combination that feels thoroughly unique – it never really stays in the one place for too long and that makes copying it surprisingly hard. In interviews, Seamus makes a point of talking about his attempts to avoid copy/pasting the same few bars over and over and that shows – his tracks feel genuinely hyperactive and constantly evolve, presumably melting his laptop in the process. ‘Little Grids’ feels like one of the more accessible releases from the English producer, sounding relatively more poppy than his recent material in a way that I found genuinely captivating when I first stumbled upon it. It feels like an hour of Radio One condensed down into the span of fifteen minutes by a scarily excited seven year old – this EP is essentially just pop ran through the YouTube recommendation algorithm and that’s pretty fun (even if I refer to literally everything as being pop on this blog).

It feels weird to only embed one track from this EP due to how short the whole thing is but I eventually just decided on linking ‘Peanut Choker’, mainly as it feels like a near-perfect opener. I find it scarily hard to write about electronic music (mainly since it’s just cool in a way that eludes words a lot of the time) and this track is no exception, there’s so much going on within these three minutes that I already know that I’m going to miss out on half of it. Iglooghost’s sound design has always amazed (and/or scared) me and this track serves as a great example as to why – cut-up vocal samples fly all over the place, there’s probably at least one arpeggiator going off at all times, and headphones are necessary to even pick up on half of what’s going on. In a 2018 interview with the Fader, Malliagh remarked that the internet was where he “grew [his] brain in a lot of ways” – “I think it’s definitely why this shit is so confusing. I have a trillion tabs open, I’m trying to watch YouTube while reading a fucking cooking tutorial. It’s crazy. It’s too much”. This track perfectly captures the maximalist nature of digital life – it feels like an extremely fast TweetDeck timeline or the rush of notifications you get after making a mildly funny post while sitting outside. It’s what I’d imagine a serotonin rush to feel like, something music bloggers are terminally incapable of having. This track deserves to be blared, perhaps by the time it deafens me I’ll be able to write a slightly less shite paragraph on it.

It’s been a while since I ended one of these posts with a paragraph that isn’t about music so I guess it’s time to throw one together. I think it’s evident that we’ve all kinda given up on “lockdown” – I have a train to wake up for on Saturday, half the country seemed to be drinking at Dame Lane last weekend, and it’s been a while since we had some annoying small business owner complaining about health guidance on the Six One. Regardless of the fact that we’re presumably going to end up sitting around at home again in a few weeks due to the inevitable second wave, it feels as if this “era” is reaching it’s end – I’m about to see my friends again (from behind a mask as opposed to behind a screen) and my reasons for barely leaving the gaff will now return to being about my mental health, not my physical health. I’ll soon be able to look back on the last few months (and these blog posts) with a vague and inaccurate nostalgia and that feels odd to think about. I’m not sure what the next few weeks and months will look like for this blog (or for anyone else), but it feels cool that something minor came out of these last few months spent sitting inside. This has been the most productive I’ve been in ages, even if that was completely unintentional and the direct result of just writing two articles in one week and then trying scarily hard to maintain that streak for as long as possible. It’s gotten to the point where it feels like a lot of the eras of my pre-lockdown life have been vaguely captured by these music posts – it’s genuinely harder to find old albums to write about than new ones at this stage and that’s fairly funny. I don’t know what albums and feelings will dominate whatever comes next post-lockdown but I’m looking forward to being extremely annoying about it on here, even if posts become a bit more inconsistent. If I still have the same amount of time to write this time next month and we’re not living in even more of an apocalypse I’ll be mad at myself, but at least for now I can pretend that there’s a reason I spend my Thursdays frantically trying to finish my Alan Kelly rap song reviews. Music journalism!