'Antisocialites' sets Alvvays apart in a sea of jangly surf pop

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 2:06 PM
'Antisocialites' sets Alvvays apart in a sea of jangly surf pop  by Livia Homerski

Alvvays, pronounced “always,” released their self-titled debut in 2014 to an active indie community experimenting with surfy guitar tones and layers of distortion. Their sophomore album, “Antisocialites,” draws from older influences in the indie/dream pop genres and dissects our relationships in an honest way.

The Canadian group of five is signed to Polyvinyl Records and consists of Molly Rankin on vocals and rhythm guitar, Kerri MacLellan on keyboard, Alec O'Hanley on lead guitar, Brian Murphy on bass guitar and Sheridan Riley on drums. Rankin and MacLellan share a lot of the writing duties, and they branched and flourished in this release.

The themes on “Antisocialites” explore loneliness and independence, as well as the way we sometimes outgrow relationships. Complications and new perspectives arise the longer we know people, and this is something that Rankin is able to capture candidly. This album blows off a lot of emotional steam but isn’t overly angsty.

There’s a lot of upbeat punk and new wave influences that freshen the feel and lets you shout it out on “Your Type” and “Hey.” The album sports a lot of tongue-in-cheek anecdotes about people, on track “Your Type” for example, Rankin puts a little attitude out with, “Let me state delicately, you’re an O and I’m AB.”

The musical influences and the arrangement of the songs on “Antisocialites” are what keep this album from feeling like a too stuffy breakup album. They’ve been a mesh of different sounds, as said by Rankin in an interview with Diffuser.fm in early 2014.

“If old people ask, I say it sounds like the Cranberries. If young people ask, I call it jangle pop. If a punk asks, I say it’s pop,” said Rankin.

This is still true, but there’s a base of new wave, post-punk and early shoegaze along with a unique Celtic twist in Rankin’s vocal and writing style.

“Saved by a Waif” throws it way back to the beginning Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” with similar snappy drum samples in a brief interlude.

“Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” is a brief ode to a pioneer of the shoegaze/noise-pop movement, Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain.

“Antisocialites” takes Alvvays’ alternative-pop sound in a more polished punk direction. However, there are times when their lo-fi sensibilities still peek through.

One of the primary things that stood out was the vocal ambition served in “Antisocialites.” Rankin’s vocals were delivered in a very simplistic and borderline uninterested tone in their debut album, but she takes a much more powerful approach in the latest release.

There’s a lot of energy and punch in the upbeat, punk toned songs, but Rankin can also belt it out in some powerful ballads like “Forget About Life” and “Dreams Tonight.” The push to utilize Rankin’s airy upper range pays off and plays up the songs’ structural dynamics.

Because this album has a lot of strong songs, it feels like it goes really quickly, an issue I had with the first Alvvays album. This isn’t as much of a problem as a pleasure, and it really leaves me looking forward to hearing more out of Alvvays. I was truthfully impressed by the songwriting and vocal development; there was a lot of powerful moments. I would really like to see more experimentation with harmonies and other dynamics in the next album.

This was a strong sophomore release for Alvvays and should put some more eyes and ears on this band. They’re striving towards breaking some molds for their genre, while keeping the lyrical content and emotions in contact.

Standout Tracks: "Plimsoll Punks," "Already Gone" and "In Undertow, Saved by a Waif"

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