In Rocket, Alex G returns with that signature lo-fi style, but this time it's more direct and accessible, less shrouded in effects and esoteric touches. The often-cited Elliott Smith influence remains in sparse, downtempo songs such as “Poison Root” and “Big Fish,” but overall, the artist’s addition of banjo and violin on many tracks makes it a brighter work. Relying on those two country-associated instruments, “Bobby,” “Rocket,” and “Powerful Man” all reveal a different side of Alex G that feels more open, less internal. They're the kind of songs that invite you to roll down the windows and let in the early summer air.
Not all of Rocket is so breezy, though. The album is Alex G’s most accessible, but it is also one of the most varied. Next to the sentimental folksong “Bobby” is the shimmering electronic jam
"Witch," with echoing, affected vocals, followed soon by “Brick,” a fiery noise-rock song with the taunting refrain, “I know that you’re lying” (good for rage-inducing traffic jams on the aforementioned New England highways). Elsewhere, there are inflections of jazz in the mellow percussion, guitar solo, and walking bass-line in “County” and sax accents in “Guilty.” The flow of Rocket is confounding, but it manages to maintain a solid grip on the listener nonetheless.
As varied as the sounds and genres throughout the album are the stories that Alex G conveys. In speaking about his music, the artist makes a point of obscuring the origins and “real” meanings of his songs, which makes for a fun journey of the imagination and a limited set of Genius annotations. In Rocket, the lyrics seem both specific and universal, introspective and observational, personal and narrative.
In one of the album’s standouts, “Bobby,” the perspectives seem to shift around as Alex G and a female voice sing in harmony, moving between sides in a love triangle. In “Powerful Man,” conversational rhyming couplets move from a story about a baby biting a woman’s cheek to musings about fatherhood (“Guess it started with the baby / She went in for a hug then it bit her on the cheek / That was pretty funny to me / But I guess I should have more sympathy / I ain’t never raised a kid / But I bet I’d do a good job if I did”). Other songs include details (“Look how he tucks his shirt in” in “Big Fish”; the days of the week on “Alina”) that evoke vivid images but don’t amount to any cohesive picture.
On Rocket, Alex G shows his range and depth as a songwriter and apartment producer. With a song for every mood and a story for every situation, it’s an album to spend time with wherever you are this summer.