ALBUM REVIEW: Alvvays are forever forlorn on ‘Antisocialites’

ALVVAYS – Antisocialites
September 8 (Polyvinyl/Trangressive)

It’s been a long wait for the follow-up to 2014’s debut self-titled record from Canadian lo-fi power pop act Alvvays. The four-piece don’t disappoint, as Antisocialites (out September 8 via Polyvinyl/Transgressive) is a home run and one of the best albums of the year.

Their debut record was sparkling, but there was a song or two that didn’t feel like a fit among the rest of the collection. On Antisocialites, each song flows seamlessly into the next — almost as though it could be a mixed tape from one of the guys who worked at the record store in High Fidelity.

The band maintains their jangly guitar sound, albeit with a bit more distortion than I recall from their earlier work. The songs also all carry a more rhythmic sound — an almost The Cure meets doo-wop vibe that will have you tapping your toes along with bopping your head.

The band has released three singles prior to the album dropping — “In Undertow”, “Dreams Tonite”, and “Plimsoll Punks”. All three are fantastic and lead off the album, but the record’s fourth track “Your Type” is the best. Lead singer Molly Rankin sounds like early-to-mid ’80s Michael Stipe, and the track like a slightly more uptempo version of R.E.M.’s “Driver 8”. “I die on the inside every time, you will never be alright, I will never be your type,” a helpless sounding Rankin sings.

Rankin’s voice is unique. The closest comparison I can make is Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura. There’s that Camera Obscura vibe, but there’s also this hint of nostalgia for the ’90s in it. Antisocialites sounds like the kind of album Katarina Stratford would have listened to on repeat. Yes, that was a 10 Things I Hate About You reference, let’s move on.

Keyboardist Kerri MacLellan brings as much of the band’s sound as Rankin — and her backing vocals provide a nice contrast to Rankin’s. Guitarist Alec O’Hanley’s riffy power-pop guitar helps drive the band’s sound, especially on songs like “Plimsoll Punks”.

The majority of the songs on Antisocialites have Rankin sounding forever forlorn. “No turning back after what’s been said,” she sings on “In Undertow”. “Who starts a fire just to let it go out?” she asks on “Dreams Tonite,” a song seemingly about a relationship falling apart.

Some of the songs from Alvvays’ self-titled record stalled. They were pretty but didn’t always hold my attention. That’s not the case with Antisocialites. The ballads on this record will have you jamming out. The lone slow-moving song is “Already Gone”, which is still very charming.

“Saved By A Waif” is a song Alvvays has been playing live for a few years under the name “New Haircut”. The song has a similar melody to “Vacation” by The Go-Gos, and I’m here for it.. “You cut your hair, now you look like a little boy,” Rankin sings before later finishing it with the more broad “Said you wanted to get it together but you don’t”.

Overall, Antisocialites is an extremely cohesive listen. Your ears will be swimming happily in the beautiful synths and Rankin’s gorgeous voice. The record drops September 8, but you can give it a listen early over at NPR.

Don’t miss Alvvays when they play Music Tastes Good in Long Beach at the end of the month!