In addition to sharing an affinity for homespun, melancholy folk music, Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli and Los Angeles’ Rachel Levy share a frustrating nominal quality with respect to their solo projects. Giannascoli records under a shortened version of his name, Alex G – a name that happens to be shared by an insipid YouTube star who posts gimmicky covers of pop songs. Levy, on the other hand, opted for a subtle amalgamation of her initials and the name of R&B singer R. Kelly when christening her project. Both names are rather cute, mirroring the occasionally childlike qualities of the artists’ music, but they’ve also made it relatively hard to find their recorded art on the internet.
Although this presents a frustrating problem for those of us who are accustomed to instantaneous online accessibility, Alex G and R.L. Kelly’s shared lack of Google-ability lends their music a pre-internet air of mystery. This mysterious quality aligns with the intensely personal thematic elements that both artists’ songs have in common, particularly those on their new split 7,” out now via Birdtapes. Each songwriter seems to write as if in a solipsism, pouring out harrowing tales of insecurity and sporadic darkness into the desolate expanse of the internet void. “Hide your eyes / I’m wearing my new disguise,” Giannascoli sings on “Magic Mirror,” the opening track of the split. “Get out of my head,” Levy pleadingly echoes on “The Voices,” three tracks later.
Suffice to say, these artists complement each other. On the new 7”, the highest profile release of which either songwriter has been a part, Giannascoli and Levy’s respective solipsisms seem to eclipse each other, crafting a coherent whole with two distinct parts. At just over 12 minutes in length, this split is no major artistic achievement, but it does serve as a perfect primer for the discographies of both artists. Alex G’s three songs are particularly revelatory, capturing his remarkable knack for pop sensibility (“Trade”), his flirtation with lo-fi noise (“Magic Mirror”), and his stunning ability to elicit darkness from the seemingly mundane (“Adam”), all within a brisk five minutes. For Levy’s part, her songs display an improvement over her debut EP Life’s A Bummer, released in February, marked by an increase in thematic cohesion and a necessary focusing of her diary entry-style lyricism into something sharper and more eerie. Alex G’s haunting, piano-anchored “Adam” is the best of these 6 tracks, but Levy’s angst-ridden “Everyday” is a close second, incorporating distorted guitar and harmonies that recall Liz Phair’s early Girlysound demos.