Review: Alvvays, Antisocialites

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The older a genre gets the more things you have to get perfect to stand out. As more of the spaces between the genre and its sound neighbors get shaded in with classic records and artists, it gets even harder. Hip Hop is decades from this problem, while jazz has been there for 30 or more years depending who you ask. I mean, you basically have to be Kamasi Washington to get non-jazz fans to care about your record. The same is true for blues, classical, real folk, and increasingly, indie rock. If one band this year is going to transcend paling genres, it is Alvvays.

Coming more than three years after their delicious self-titled debut, Antisocialites is studied in classic indie rock and patient as it adds tones and moments to its sonic palette. Advance single “Dreams Tonite” mixes their fresher Yo La Tengo sound with Slowdive guitars and simple love lines to much success. The final chorus adds haunting harmonies. Molly Rankin sugars her twee to maximum impact without forsaking jangle for straight pop.

“Plimsoll Punks” isn’t a punk song, and it doesn’t need to be. And the chorus fades into a solo that fades into fifteen second ambient pause right into a shoegaze movement that fades back into the chorus. Proving not only pop intelligence but song structures that have the marks of an individualist talent. The lengthier track gets reacted to immediately — “Your Type” shows its chorus by 21 seconds. The key change hits less as a nod to the 50’s and more as icing. Plus Rankin continues McCartney’s legacy — if a song only needs to be two minutes – make it two minutes. This is her “Good Day Sunshine”.

Antisocialites shows more than growth in method though. The record contains additional emotional channels not present on the debut. “Not My Baby” is brooding and deep with a pace that keeps it from slogging. Each melody line is wrung like a wet sponge until all the juice is out and the next dynamite hook is surfaced. Molly often sings in the higher part of her register, but she can still jump octaves from there with ease, like Mario flying from a mountain to a cloud, and walking on it until he wants to jump back down to civilization.

These dreamy slices have made fans of Ben Gibbard (who covered an early single) and Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub who sings backup on the premier track. The production and melodies would be enough, but Rankin is a growing lyricist as well. Her main tricks include sardonic plain speech and short character stories, and here she adds in a simple full record arc, tracing a relationship from breakup to end, exploring the post-ending phase many find themselves stuck in.

In a music culture that often fails to recognize the writing and producing of these women in favor of their beauty and performance, women continue to re-energize a genre that felt out of tricks, Molly Rankin stands aside Tina from Sheer Mag, Victoria from Beach House, and Klara and Johanna from First Aid Kit. 

At 32 minutes Alvvays is challenging 2000’s Weezer in a laconic contest. Too little is far better than too much as dozens of overstuffed double albums have taught fans of each decade. Every song here is a hit and Antisocialites is brilliant. B PLUS