Album Review: Alvvays, “Antisocialites”
by Julian Hernandez
Nothing sounds heavier than a broken heart struggling to find answers to the question: “What went wrong?” Often times the search for those answers are a solitary and lonely road of self-discovery. With Alvvays’ sophomore album Antisocialites Molly Rankin, the lead singer and principal writer, makes indie pop perfection in airing out all those post-breakup thoughts.
Three years ago Alvvays released their first album, the self-titled Alvvays. Since then the Toronto based indie pop group has been busy touring across Europe and the United States, supporting popular outfits such as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. It seems as if they picked up a few tips from the indie pop giants and applied it to their newest album. Across the ten tracks, clocking in just over thirty-two minutes, Alvvays never sulks in sometimes troubling lyrics but instead energizes themselves with jangly chords and solos, infectious choruses, and power pop loops.
One impressive and immediately noticeable departure from their last album is Rankin’s eagerness to stretch her voice to fill any conceivable space on the album. On “Dreams Tonite” Rankin channels her voice to carry the vulnerability of questioning a failed relationship. As she ponders over “If I saw you on the street, would I have you in my dreams tonight?” we hear Rankin harmonizing almost angelic notes, punctuating the question and the pain it carries.
The first single released from the new album, and the opening track, “Undertow” is a defiant shout of post breakup uncertainty in how to proceed, but only knowing that one must proceed. With its opening keys delicately inviting us into something perhaps warm, fuzzy, and familiar, stretching that last note until it gains into a single attack, we are turned upside down into the post-warmth vibrations. “You find a wave and try to hold on for as long as you can/You made a mistake you’d like to erase and I understand/’What’s left for you and me?’/I ask that question rhetorically.” In this, the arc of the album, and the path past a breakup, begins with a place familiar to most of us: What’s next?
While the album deals with the ordeals and process of moving on and living past a relationship, there is much to offer those who wish for the brighter side of Alvvays. On “Your Type” we find Alvvays dishing out the power-pop frolicking that would have been one of the summer’s big hits if the album had come out sooner. Rankin playfully goes along with the upbeat and jangly guitars, singing along almost breathlessly, modulating her voice to its loftiest highs and fullest lows, all giving the impression that she would have been smiling widely in the recording studio.
If there is one track that best exemplifies the freedom that has been found in recording this album it can be seen on “Hey.” One could be forgiven for thinking that this song was off a 70s or 80s progressive rock album, especially with the intro and its laser like keys alongside the echoed out guitar riffs and steady percussion. Perhaps it’s an amalgamation of those rock and roll sensibilities instilled in them with their popish ideals that defines the sound on this track. It’s apparent when you hear Rankin find in herself a new voice, unheard anywhere on the album up to that point, and she channels her inner force with the lines “Fight and you run and you run/And it’s likely over now/Fight and you run and you run/And you want it over now.”
“Lollipop (Ode to Jim” is an indie pop power track dedicated to Jim Reid, the lead singer of The Jesus and Mary Chain, who Rankin performed with last year at the Spectrum Now festival providing backing vocals on “Just like Honey” and providing an opening set with Alvvays. With “Already Gone” Rankin continues the thematic arc. This song of tragic loss, relying on the storytelling aspects of Rankin’s voice alongside dreamlike guitar, continues the post-relationship trauma that envelops the album.
As the album comes to a close you find yourself forgetting the question of what went wrong. You’ve been transported past the worst tears, the dry-heaves, and onto the nights sitting in front of your journal, writing down “Wow, well what’s next?” In this, we excitedly direct the same question towards Alvvays.