By Liam Prost
ROYAL MOUNTAIN RECORDS
When Alvvays burst onto the scene, it was a perfect conduit between stadium pop-rock and the grimey and brittle toned indie darlings of the mid-10’s. Equal parts Beach House, Mac Demarco, and Tegan and Sara, rounded off with a refined coat of ‘80s synth shimmer. They had a lot going for them, even outside of the fact that frontwoman Molly Rankin is one of those Rankins, and is thus East Coast royalty. After a disappointing, but necessary, relocation from PEI to Toronto, their self-titled debut pushed about as far as a Canadian indie could. The record is an absolute single machine, with catchy pop hook after catchy pop hook. The guitars are brittle, the reverb is dense, the synths are smooth, and Rankin’s electric silver hair sparkles almost as much as her luminous vocals. This band was the full package.
It’s only been three years, but those songs are burnt into the speakers of every coffee house in Canada, thus, it’s about time for a few new ones. Hence, Antisocialites: an extremely polished sophomore release that hits fast, but arcs strongly.
It’s a much stronger front-to-back listen than its forebear, but the trade-off is that there are markedly fewer shimmering hooks. For each fluttery and beautiful pop anthem like “Dreams Tonite” there is a stuttering and unfamiliar indie exercise like “Hey.” The rougher tracks are by no means inaccessible, but rather just divergent enough to add shape to the album.
The least comfortable songs are the most interesting on the record. Things slow down in the second half, with the sparkly clean tonality giving way to some careful grit in the low end of the mix. Of note is the beautiful and restrained closer “Forget About Life,” with its rolling percussion, off-time guitar chords, and intermittent discordant noises, echoing the lifestyle of disarray the song half-heartedly celebrates. “Already Gone” is perhaps the most melancholic tracks on the record, a starry-eyed song with a slowly building wall of noisy harmony.
The second half is tremendous, but is made all the stronger in conversation with the whopping one-two-three punch of “In Undertow,” “Dreams Tonite,” and “Plimsoll Punks,” the brightest and biggest songs on the record, not coincidentally the first three songs released. It’s hard to say that the biggest moments on Antisocialites top the pop genius of their debut, but they certainly come close, and the album experience is strong enough to keep neo-millenials running in slow motion through urban sidestreets to these songs for years to come.Alvvays, and Tegan and Sara, Antisocialites, Beach House, Mac DeMarco, Polyvinyl Record Co., pop-rock, Record Review