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Review: Alvvays – Antisocialites

Review: Alvvays – Antisocialites

A couple weeks back, Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin was attacked on stage in Belgium—a drunk, male attendee interrupted the band to, at his insistence, “give her a kiss.” Despite the buffoonery, this type of fan seems like both a not-unexpected result of Alvvays’ meteoric rise (read: crazed) as well as a character that could easily make his way into one of Rankin’s eclectic song narratives—perhaps he later will.

On Alvvays self-titled debut, we were famously introduced to Archie—a nuptial skeptic who would later go on to become the centerpiece of a Toronto anthem, as well as ample material for a cover courtesy of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. Indeed, Alvvays start seemed a little too good to be true, which is why their follow-up Antisocialites was so eagerly anticipated—the 3+ year layover couldn’t possibly be a good sign, right?

Resoundingly, Alvvays have debunked any such critiques with a more varied, sonically explorative effort replete with a wonderful new cast of characters. We meet Adrian, who falls out of trees. We have a doppelganger to 70’s era Iggy Pop. And front and center we have Rankin herself, who conceptually chronicles personal love and loss in a concise 32 minutes.

Lyrically and sonically, the suite of 10 songs speak to a maturation on Rankin and the band’s behalf. The opening trio of singles are restless in their pace—“In Undertow” picks up where their self-titled left off, whereas “Dreams Tonite” and “Plimsoll Punks” resist each other’s pace to great success.

And the rest? It’s an endless grab-bag of treats. Sugary-pop cuts “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” and “Saved by a Waif” are destined to be setlist singalongs. “Not My Baby,” with echoes of Fleet Foxes’ “Montezuma,” is a sweeping, complex, “I’m better off without you” catharsis.

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Apparently, Rankin sought quietude on Toronto Island for much of the writing and conceptualizing of this album. A relatively antisocial act, this album does not speak as an advocate to some abject lonerism. Rather, Antisocialities is a masterclass in observation—it takes in its surroundings and synthesizes them into something unique and wholly relatable.

Rankin, whether ironically or not, does a mild disservice to her band’s rise in the opening lyric to “In Undertow”: “You find a wave and try to hold on for as long as you can.” Many would say that’s the underlying MO to indie-rock recognition—get hot and stay hot. But Antisocialites shows no signs of simply hanging on to an old wave—Alvvays have outdone themselves, and it would come as no surprise if that became the prevailing theme of their careers.

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