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This Week in Music History: “Trick” by Alex G

Trick by Alex G via Amazon

On November 5th, 2012, Alex Giannascoli, formally known as Alex G, released his third album, “Trick.” The album’s 10-year anniversary marks a significant juncture. For an active artist whose music is still relegated to the somewhat stifling categorization of “indie” music, this album is relevant to Alex G’s transition from critical darling to popularized name. “Trick” is an example of how albums have extended lives due to streaming services and social media. Strangely, even a decade later, and simultaneously with the release of his new, ninth album, “Trick” is dominating.

Alex G performing “Miracles” on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Image via Consequence.

In a way, 10 years seems like too little time to deem anything classic, or even fitting for the topic of “this week in music history.” Lou Reed’s “Transformer” came out almost 50 years ago this week; why write about an indie album from a decade ago? Well, there are a couple good reasons.

Alex G’s “Trick” remains his most streamed and most enigmatic record at the same time, a benchmark in an exciting music career that is still blossoming. Both the anonymous masses and devoted fans have decided it’s a worthwhile record that should be considered one of the best of the 2010s.

A Second Life for Indie Music

Several songs from “Trick” have gained a cult following and renewed life from TikTok. “Sarah” has an impressive 33.4k videos to date; “Mary,” 16.4k videos, “16 Mirrors,” 12.4k. Whether users are admiring the music, curating an aesthetic, or just trying to boost their content, people are undoubtedly connecting with the music (all over) again.

These songs, and others, have garnered tens of millions of streams on Spotify. “Sarah” is the frontrunner, with over 40 million streams to date. For an album that was published independently on Bandcamp in 2012 and only given a proper release in 2015, this is a rare resurgence.

Alex G used to be an unkept secret. His “discovery” by and collaboration with Frank Ocean propelled him to further recognition. But even after lending inventive guitar playing to 2016’s “Blonde,” Alex G didn’t catch mainstream attention. Eventually, the joint forces of algorithm-based support from TikTok and Spotify helped “Trick” gain traction.

Alex G’s Textures and Mystique

“Trick” is beautifully messy. It’s worth a listen for any fan of indie music, even though it didn’t stick out to me at first. I first discovered his 2019 album “House of Sugar” via a (laudatory) Pitchfork review and high recommendation from a friend of a friend. The album enchanted me, so much so that I had to revisit his older work.

I didn’t immediately connect with “Trick.” After frequent revisits, I understand the album’s allure. It’s propulsive, raw, and full of potential. From the first track, “Memory,” Alex G makes no haste establishing a sound and world-building. Every song begins abruptly, no fade-ins or fluff. The record commands attention from the first strum.

Alex G surveys a range of sounds and textures, from typical house show band (“Kute”) to more noisy/industrial (“Animals”) to psychedelia (“String”), even venturing into electronic (“Trick”) and hints of folk/acoustic (“Forever”). There’s a certain liveliness and unexpectedness about “Trick”, and all of Alex G’s music, that makes you wonder if it might sound different the next time you listen to it. It’s part of the mystique, encouraging multiple listens and fan interaction.

Lyrically, the tracks are both simple and absurd. He sings about a pet on “Animals:” “Rosie is my favorite dog / Takes her piss on the neighbor’s lawn.” Some fans speculated that all of his songs are about dogs, but he confirmed this as false.

He tells human stories too, such as the ever popular “Sarah.” The song starts with: “Sarah runs to feel the burning in her lungs.” From just a few lines, we see he is a plainspoken, storytelling lyricist. He shows us again on “So:” “I am so blue / How can I show you?” Another simple lyric with a complex feeling.

The emotion of this line is best understood when hearing it, which brings up a good point: the voice. Alex G’s voice is key. Some songs, he stays in his regular, raspy but low register. Others, he ventures into high territory, to a dazzling effect.

How Things Change

Perhaps the most affecting moment of the album is the devastating song “Change” followed by the gorgeous piano track “Clouds.” When Giannascoli sings the simple line “I don’t like how things change,” it could turn a casual fan into a dedicated Alex G believer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the track turned into the next popular TikTok sound/cult favorite.

“Change” Video via Alex G on YouTube

“Trick” (purportedly) covers drug use, childhood bullies, beloved animals, and the importance of memory. This range of topics attracts listeners to his varied discography. The songs are often short. This leaves the listener to wonder what his enigmatic lyrics mean. The album’s world-building invites fans to explore an expansive record filled with common (Biblical) names (Sarah, Adam, Mary) and commonplace ideas (Memory, Advice, Change).

“Trick” by Alex G ought to be considered a classic in Alex G’s catalog, if not an important record in “indie music.” If we as indie enjoyers don’t make a case for our favorite records when they’re still fresh, people might not remember them as the benchmarks they are.

Ten years later, “Trick” remains an important record for fans and reappears in unexpected places in the nebulous algorithm. Listen if you haven’t. You might not get it the first time, the lyrics and sound may be too mundane. But that’s where the magic trick of Alex G’s music lies, in the unexpected connections you’ll discover in the ordinary.