by Preston Radke
The latest single from lo-fi recording artist Alex G moans at you deep from the wilderness of his assumedly tortured and weathered soul. “Bobby” is an experimental breakthrough for the native Philadelphian, with a small string section, and an omni-present banjo accompanying his usual acoustic guitar and Elliot Smith-esque vocals. At only twenty-four, this release marks an extreme innovation in his work. “Bobby” is the lead single off of Rocket, his upcoming studio record to be released in May.
“Bobby” details the plight of a protagonist’s suffering relationship with someone (Bobby) who just seems to not care about the couple anymore. “Bobby” is one of those tracks where the meaning and fervor of the piece is gleaned more from the deep, and layered instrumentation than through the lyrics. The lyrics are very beautiful and heartfelt, but the interplay between the banjo, acoustic guitar, and violins truly set the overall tone and theme for the piece.
The theme of love gone awry via negligence is certainly not a new trope to either the listener or the artist, but it’s Alex G’s unique and textured delivery that truly makes this song stick out above others. He isn’t saying anything new here, but he’s delivering it in a very new and slightly complex manner.
Since his debut in 2011, Alex G has made his mark as a low-fidelity Indie songwriter. His previous works have had whispers of Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, and screams of Elliot Smith and Lucinda Williams. This single however added a new dimension. His piece, while still sounding very Alex G, sounded very folky, and even slightly country. The overall tempo of the piece marauded in a slow, consistent manner resplendent of slow, acoustic-based country ballads. The addition of the banjo and certain lyrical themes further pushed Alex G in to the country genre.
Alex G has detailed his recording style and production leanings. The artist has routinely said that he does all of his recording in his bedroom in his Philadelphia home, and limits the amount of mixing and dubbing, instead relying on his ability as a live performer. “Bobby” carries that same under-produced style reminiscent of his previous work. Naturally, there was some added mixing and production needed on this track due to the presence of additional instrumentation, but he was still able to maintain the minimal sound that he has stuck to for the past six years.
Also in the “Bobby” Family:
Pure Ex: Dream Over
Frankie Cosmos: Is It Possible/Sleep Song
Girlpool: Before the World Was Big
All Images From: Bandcamp
Alex G’s “Bobby” is nothing new thematically. One could go so far as to claim that the lyrics weren’t key to the delivery of the meaning of the song, rather it was the performance of the instrumentation and tonality of the piece that truly drove the concept of the song home. The song will lose points only because the theme and meaning of the song isn’t anything new, but despite that, the delivery of such an old concept was very well done.
Stylistically, “Bobby” was the result of an almost tectonic shift that Alex G underwent to unparalleled success. Few artists are truly able to merge the genres of Indie rock, folk and morose country. Many try, but Alex G is one of the only to take it and run.
From a production standpoint, “Bobby” is a slight enigma. The song was not well produced, frankly. At times the string and banjos severely distorted his vocals, and at other times the acoustic guitar seemed to get lost in the shuffle rendering the learned Alex G listener disoriented and perplexed. On the other hand, Alex G did this on purpose. The production (or lack of) was meant to represent the confusion and disorder that the protagonist feels in his situation. Additionally, the rustic and minimal feel adds to the country/folk aesthetic that Alex G dominated with.
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.