When Alvvays‘ eponymous debut album arrived in July 2014, it represented the ideal summer record. The shimmering dream-pop heightened the optimism and hope that filled the record, and its individual songs (notably “Archie, Marry Me” and “Adult Diversion”) would define memories still to be written. Their sophomore LP similarly arrives at the perfect time. As summer fades, Alvvays have released the perfect album to reflect on what has just transpired. In other words, Antisocialites is the soundtrack of the summer of 2017. Or even 1984, as the Toronto-based group also infuse a heavy dose of retro into their pop arrangements.
The languid ballad “Already Gone” encapsulates the album’s nostalgic vibe. Akin to a night alone at a cottage, Molly Rankin’s serene vocals are drenched in memory as she says goodbye to the people and places of her summer. The upbeat, jangle-pop anthem “Saved by A Waif”, which features some shimmering guitar work, recounts a young person’s entrapment of self-expression versus family expectations:
“Mommy wants you to be a doctor
So she can tell her friends you’re like your father
And if it’s all for the sake of conversation
Then maybe you should try a new vocation”
While Antisocialites lacks an imaginative anthem like “Archie, Marry Me”, it still possesses some beautiful love songs. The album’s closer, “Forget About Life,” is a gorgeous affair that possess the intimate flair of ’80s pop. Rankin’s lyrics are stunning as she describes a woman’s struggles to overcome the end of a relationship. Its antithesis is the synth-driven “Not My Baby” with its echoes of Frankie Rose. Rankin’s vocals, meanwhile, adopt a Debbie Harry-esque smokiness, which complements the story of a woman moving on with her life.
“And now that you’re not my baby
I’ll go do whatever I want
No need to sit at home with the dial tone
‘Cause I don’t care.”
A late-’70s and early-’80s attitude also fills the boisterous “Hey”, which infuses neo-psychedelia and garage rock into one fabulous number. The song would be the perfect anthem for Ferris Bueller’s exploits on his day off around Chicago. Things get even more exhilarating with the immensely fun punk-pop tune, “Lollipop (Ode To Jim)”. Everything is sped up a bit to give the song its infectious vibe while Rankin’s storytelling is filled with cute vignettes that center around drugs. In many respects, this track is a trip.
The album’s highlights, however, are its first three songs that serve as one of the best openings of any album this year. The memorable and euphoric “In Undertow” kicks things off. As the dazzling instrumentation revolves around her strong vocals, Rankin observes how a friend has grown distant:
“Meditate, play solitaire, take up self defense
When you get old and faded out will you want your friends?
What’s left for you and me?
You respond to my question metaphorically
Don’t read into psychology
And won’t rely on your mood for anything.”
“Dreams Tonite” is exactly how it is described – dreamy and cinematic. Rankin’s vocals have a bedroom intimacy, and her lyrics are personal yet familiar, as she shares the feeling of wanting someone who has moved afar. In her typical fashion, her storytelling is vivid, this time taking listeners through the abandoned motorways of New Jersey. On “Plimsoll Punks”, Alvvays reveal an edgy, post-punk side, which gives the quartet’s delicious melodies some added bite. Rankin’s songwriting is more assertive, as she takes on the condescending, stuck-up types. The song is essentially two big middle fingers to the pretenders and bandwagon jumpers while being an anthem for all of us “little people.”
The entire album, for that matter, reflects Alvvays’ uncanny ability to articulate the emotions and struggles of everyday people. They do it with a bit of sarcasm and dark humor, but also with honesty. In each song, we can envision ourselves as the protagonist, struggling to overcome a broken heart, fighting with ourselves and others to be the person we want to be, and overcoming loneliness, rejection, and self-pity. As such, Antisocialites is an album that shares the same powerful intimacy and realism as the soundtracks for Singles, Reality Bites, and even Almost Famous.
Alvvays are Molly Rankin (vocals/guitar), Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Kerri MacLellan (keys), Brian Murphy (bass), and Phil MacIsaac (drums).
The band is currently on tour with a full list of dates here.
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