By Jacob Carter
Release Date: September 8, 2017
There’s no shortage of indie rock albums about relationships. But in an environment oversaturated with with synth-heavy, reverb-soaked breakup songs, how do you push the bar forward? There’s no right answer, but there are bands that are tinkering with that sound, and in the case of Alvvays on their new LP Antisocialites, coming damn close to perfecting it, even if they never stray too far out of their comfort zone.
After debuting with one of the best indie-pop albums in recent memory in 2014, Toronto natives Alvvays stayed relatively quiet in terms of new music. July saw the release of earworms (and album openers) “In Undertow” and “Dreams Tonite” leading up to the full album’s release in September. In the time since their self-titled debut, Alvvays has matured their sound without sacrificing any of the trademark mysticism that comes with it. Singer Molly Rankin’s vocals are still the center point of most, if not all of the songs on Antisocialites and the rest of the band does a remarkable job playing around her voice.
“In Undertow” is easily the breakout song of the album, encapsulating all the best qualities of the band. The song’s heavy distortions and foggy guitar hooks perfectly accompany one of the catchiest choruses to come out this year. In fact, the first two tracks of Antisocialites are so good, the rest of the album feels like it comes in their wake. I had to listen through a few times before I could really focus on songs like “Saved By A Waif” and “Forget About Life”. A lot of the tracks on this album have a meandering quality to them, which matches perfectly matches the subject matter of Antisocialites.
All the relationships on Antisocialites feel fleeting, like Rankin is floating aimlessly from one thing to the next and trying to pick up the pieces along the way. The whole album feels cathartic in a triumphant way. I wouldn’t call any of the songs on this album bitter, but there’s some hang-ups Rankin sings about that feel deeply personal, like in “Dreams Tonite” when she sings, “Who starts a fire just to let it go out?” Or in “Saved By A Waif” when she sings, “Mommy wants you to be a doctor so she can tell her friends you’re like your father.” But that’s part of what makes “In Undertow” so triumphant. “You made a mistake you tried to erase and I understand,” sings Rankin as she tries to get the point across that “there’s no turning back.” “In Undertow” is the first song on the album, to set up the context that the hapless inhabitants of Antisocialites can, and should be proud of the control they have over their lives, and who they choose to share them with.
While some of the songs on Antisocialites melt together in a way that’s not always super engaging, its handful of breakout tracks more than make up for it. Alvvays is really learning how to use its voice, and if this album is any indication, they’ll only get better at it with time.