When Toronto indie pop band Alvvays broke out with their self-titled debut in 2014, it was difficult to picture where their indie pop vision could lead to in the future. They could have recycled the same sound for endless albums to come. However, instead of using their sound and aesthetics as a crutch, Alvvays uses it as a portal with which to explore new and dynamic ways to present gratifyingly beautiful pop songs, as evidenced in their latest album Antisocialites.
Antisocialites is the sophisticated older brother to their jubilant self-titled debut. At heart, many of the elements, which made their debut so charming, have remained. Cleverly poetic lyrics, the dulcet voice of Molly Rankin, and their chiming guitars remain at the forefront. The band has not tweaked their essence, but rather fleshed it out. In their sophomore standout, Alvvays reinvents themselves and finds a far more tasteful and explorative palette with which to play, ultimately avoiding being forgotten in a sea of nostalgia.
There is a deeper sense of dread and maturity in it that makes it far more gratifying to listen to. Where their debut album played with darker themes, Antisocialites faces them head-on. This transpires into the instrumentals as well. The band finds itself refining the structures of their songs. Cleverly placed instrumental interludes and detailed bridges, such as that in “Not My Baby,” or the lingering intro to opener “In Undertow,” prove that the band has furthered their craft.
Antisocialites is a dynamic album that reveals its versatility track by track. “Dreams Tonite” has the band exploring with dream pop and sounding much like a young tribute to Beach House. “Lollipop” flirts with the late 80’s jangly influence, while “Saved by a Waif” and “Plimsoll Punks” add a couple of playful and punchier moments to their repertoire.
Standout track “Not My Baby” proves how much more emotive a song can be when well arranged. Its bubbling bassline and layered guitars, along with Rankin’s longing vocals, all contribute to its propelling tension. It is a fleeting dream of pop bliss that demands being replayed endlessly, making it the most moving and gratifying moment on the record.
In a musical sphere with ever constant innovation, it is hard to see how something as primal as jangly guitar pop could be reinvented. With their sophomore standout Antisocialites, Alvvays prove that you can bring back a classic sound, as long as you make it your own. At its core, jangle pop is about capturing a pleasant but ephemeral feeling—one that you long to hold on to, because you know it will end soon. Alvvays are aware of this and make the most of the 32-minute length of Antisocialites. Never overstaying their welcome, but gracefully exiting before its next visit.
By Patricia Cardenas