And we now enter the era of the bedroom lo-fi indie pop maestro who was born at the dawn of the Clinton Administration. If DSU, the latest from 22-year-old Pennsylvanian Alex Giannascoli (Alex G) is any indication of what to expect from the new crew of young music whizzes, then the kids are alright. (And they’re earning write-ups in Rolling Stone.)
He’s no out-of-nowhere ingénue: he’s been at it a while, releasing a handful of albums through Bandcamp dating back to 2010 and he’s ready for his (comparative) star turn. Don’t let that album cover fool you, though – this is no rah-rah, be-true-to-your-school, stadium-rocking affair. Indeed, when you learn that DSU stands for “Dream State University” everything clicks. DSU is very much the product of a young man crafting an album in his college dorm room, working out the thoughts and sounds in his head.
Not having seen his transcript, I can’t speak to G’s grades, but he’s clearly done his indie homework: opener “After UR Gone” could’ve found a home on the old Tiny Idols comps from a few years back: a celebration of synthy-squiggles leading to a shambling, strummy Guided By Voices riff. He’s also aced courses on Pavement (“Axelsteel”) and King of the Beach-era Wavves (“Black Hair”, the seemingly baby brother ode “Harvey”) and, class clown-style, does a mean impression of the dude from Telekinesis on a codeine bender (“Sorry”).
To his credit, though, Giannascoli is more than the sum of his well-known, well-worn influences. While there’s an admittedly thin line between lo-fi and half-finished, DSU generally lands on the happy side of that divide, with G exploring a sound or idea without wholly committing to it. To wit: “Serpent Is Lord” is a washed-out hymn, while “Promise”, with its synth-funk riff and ethereal piano, is an attempt to establish a colony of Ibiza on G’s Temple University campus. Meanwhile, “Skipper” and “Tripper” serve as brief sketches, with their wordless backing vocals and piano amble pushing the reset button between more far-afield experiments.
That said, G himself may be starting over, if the warning of “I am not the boy you know”, intoned over a clever, discordant piano line of closing “Boy” is to be believed. It’s DSU’s strongest, most fully realized track, and points to Giannascoli’s life outside of a dorm room cocoon.