If there’s one thing Alex G has a knack for, it’s capturing the silliness and dread of growing up. But what does this sound like when you’re a decade into your career and have a baby on the way? ‘God Save the Animals’ has all the makings of a classic Alex G record with an outlook that feels comfortable exploring the unknown… With a bit of help.
Alex Giannascoli is not religious but manages to incorporate Christian themes throughout the album in a sincere and unique way. Christianity’s prevalence in American culture may prompt one to wonder why it so strongly resonates with people, which is the perspective he writes from. An open mind can go a long way here. Religion is used as a tool for hope and thinking positively about big life moments, such as aging, having more responsibilities, and having more to lose. It is also used to motivate and hold people accountable. 2019’s ‘House of Sugar’ covered themes of indulgence, shame, and escapism with a distinct darkness and lack of optimism. On ‘God Save the Animals,’ we’re met with a perspective that is somewhat salvaged from fear. “Put it in God’s hands,” as some Christians would say. But, beyond God and bible references, one can still relate to the album’s themes of introspection, mortality, purpose, and overall satisfaction with life.
‘God Save the Animals’ has something for longtime Alex G fans and curious listeners. The building blocks of his signature music style are present: alternative rock, Americana, bizarre vocal inflection, harmonizing female vocals, jarring electronic elements. Nothing too unfamiliar since ‘House of Sugar’ already incorporated many of these. The electronica definitely stands out more here, which divided some fans with the release of singles “Blessing” and “Cross the Sea.” It creates an eerie atmosphere that still feels familiar in the grand scheme of Alex G’s music. The piano is especially beautiful on this album, exemplified on the bright and upbeat single “Runner” (almost in the same vein as “Boy” from 2014’s DSU). If Alex G’s country-folk appeals to you more, tracks “Miracles” and “Forgive” sound like they could’ve been written and performed by Neil Young himself. Whether you like his folk songs, alt-rock fuzz, or unsettling glitching, Alex G has put it all together on ‘God Save the Animals.’
Album opener “After All” sets the tone with a narrator who has found security and comfort in a higher power while the people and places around them change. It’s clear in the lyrics: “After all/People come and people go away/Yeah but God with me he stayed…” It’s a simple outlook—maybe too simple for some, but it helps the narrator cope. We also hear this on tracks like “Blessing” and “Mission.” The latter is an interesting one since a connection can be made to missionary work, which is popular amongst American Christians, or the lyrics could simply be about a very determined person. Ultimately, the narrator is reflecting on their purpose and apparently has no identity apart from being an instrument to accomplish a greater goal. “I was asleep like a child/I walked the idiot mile” sounds like something right out of a classic country gospel song. “S.D.O.S” is a folktronica song that has become a fan favourite, with creepy voice modulation and more Christianity-inspired lyrics that are bumper sticker worthy.
If you’re not really feeling all of that, “Runner” will be an enjoyable switch-up. It pleasantly reflects on people worth admiring, who can make you feel better about yourself and life. It’s easy on the ears without compromising Giannascoli’s signature quirks, such as cryptic lyrics and a cathartic wail. The simple desire of wanting to surround yourself with people who won’t judge you, especially during the weirdest times in your life, is very relatable.
The tender country-folk song “Miracles” is arguably the most endearing song on ‘God Save the Animals’ and the best example of how Giannascoli used religion as a vehicle for his narratives. It’s a candid look at a couple healing from their own personal trauma while trying to plan a future together. People handle monumental change in different ways, like throwing themselves into their career or turning to drugs. The song’s distinct air of hope is established by the narrator’s faith. He believes “miracles and crosses” offers something greater than the euphoria of ecstasy. “Baby, I pray for the children and the sinners and the animals too/And I, I pray for you” sounds so sincere and comforting coming from the singer, it’s pretty impressive that Giannascoli wrote it as a spectator rather than a believer. (He didn’t have “any relationship to [faith] prior to making this album”). In the final verse, he asks “How many more songs am I supposed to write before/I can turn it off and say goodnight?” which have many wondering if this is Alex G at his most personal and honest.
Somehow, Alex G convinced a bunch of indie kids to enjoy Christian music for a moment. And with recent performances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert series, paired with songs that have gone viral on TikTok, it feels like this indie darling is breaking further into the mainstream. With this incredible shift, there’s no saying where Alex G could take us next.