Alexis Pastuhov is dead. He fought a good fight, but like all things that become increasingly tedious and restrictive, he had to go. The Brooklyn based singer-songwriter is survived by a strong penchant for candid lyrics, catchy melodies, and bedroom-pop recordings.
Alright, obituary aside, there was a death of sorts, but not a literal death. For Pastuhov, this shift in identity was more like a rebirth. Assuming the moniker Bad Galaxy at its deepest level marks the start of a creative evolution and a re-visioning of the self, and at its simplest could be looked at as just an attempt at visibility via a more memorable moniker. Whatever the motivation behind the change, the Brooklyn based musician's new self-titled album is still undeniably Pastuhov. The arrangements are more ambitious than past releases, yes, and the production more nuanced, but in many senses, Pastuhov picks-up right where he left off with 2013’s Murder Your Darlings. Sure, ‘Darlings’ was a more ‘guitar-forward’ style album, whereas Bad Galaxy seeks to differentiate itself through the exploration of electronic textures, but the dynamics and lyrical sentiments are similar and the impassioned vocal performances and stacked harmonies certainly harken back to past releases.
"I really wanted to make an album that people could listen to over and over again, and still discover something new in each song. Every subtle texture, every word and every little musical nuance is there for a reason, and a lot of the material on the album seeks to set a tone or a vibe rather than tell a straightforward story. A lot of my past albums were more focused around a clear narrative structure, whereas this album in some regards is more cryptic, experimental, and open to interpretation." - Alexis Pastuhov
While not exactly looking to re-invent his own wheel, Pastuhov remains true to his tongue-in-cheek writing style, clinging to a catastrophic yet humorous outlook on life. However he does manage to push forward his own unique brand of indie-rock, by embracing the use of synthesizers, drum loops, samples, ambient noise, and many instruments not featured on past albums. There is even a fully instrumental track on the album, and the opening song “Always In A Minor Key” is built around one phrase that is repeated over and over, building to a crescendo of voices all singing 'First you give up, and then you give in to it' in four part harmony as the background instrumentation soars to an almost cacophonous roar.
At times, the music on Bad Galaxy delves into the realm of experimental and avant-garde, but more often than not there is a strong adherence to straight forward, verse-chorus-verse, pop sensibilities, with most songs clocking-in at under four minutes. Sonically and thematically the album covers a lot of ground, and offers music lovers of all kinds something new to discover with each listen. The fact that Pastuhov wrote, recorded, mixed, and performed all the instruments on the album is also a testament to his musical abilities and is worthy of note if for no other reason than to shed light on the vast amount of time and creative energy that most certainly went into the production of the record.
"I think that the album has collected some of that dirty city grit. The kind that swirls up into your eyes when you're walking down the street, or inhaling the dust of a just missed train. And just like the city, the music is dynamic both sonically and thematically. There are a lot of highs and lows as the album progresses from song to song and those shifts are just as much a product of my own creative neuroses as they are a product of the city's ever-changing mood."
Bad Galaxy is beautiful and ugly, dark and bright, hard and soft, happy and sad. It is a brave album full of contrast and conflict, and it is a bold exclamation from an artist that regardless of his name, demands to be heard.