Antisocialites: a cold-weather album with a radiant sound from Alvvays

4/5 stars

There is something incredibly alluring about Antisocialites. The sophomore effort from Canadian five-piece Alvvays is undoubtedly an album for cold weather, leaving behind the summery melodies that characterised their self-titled debut without neglecting their infectious jangle pop sound, this time coated in a layer of frost. As Molly Rankin narrates the flow of a fictional relationship through dreamy, ethereal vocals above a new wave-inspired guitar sound, the record has a pleasant aura of familiarity that greets you like an old friend from the opening bars.

Alvvays aren’t mucking about on Antisocialites. End to end the album runs for just 32 minutes, tearing through an array of mostly fast moving, succinct tracks that strike a perfect balance between instrumental intricacy and blue walls of sound. The opener, ‘In Undertow’, isn’t particularly concerned with introduction but is quick to unfold a blanket of synth, chorus-laden guitar and wistful vocals, delivering a punchy chorus that you’ve learnt by the second time it comes around. As it turns out, this is a recurring sensation on Antisocialites. Jangly choruses and sizzling hooks jump out on almost every track; ‘Plimsoll Punks’ fuses neat guitar licks with overdriven, thick chords for a timeless-sounding refrain where the upbeat, relentless chorus of ‘Saved By A Waif’ is a welcome reminder of what Alvvays do best.

That’s certainly not to say Antisocialites is devoid of subtlety and detail. ‘Not My Baby’ opens with a warm, meandering guitar lull that is duly met by swirling keyboard chords in one of the harmonic climaxes of the album. The distant sound of a motorbike pulling away is particularly poignant as Rankin’s pure, sweeping vocal begins a reflection on a love lost to a bitter reality – “Traded my rose-coloured shades for a wide lens / Used to make noise now I much prefer silence.”

Her often melancholic and elegant lyricism does a lot to coordinate a contrast to the sparkle of Alvvay’s pop-based instrumentation, discernible again on ‘Dreams Tonite’. Spacious and nostalgic, it makes a compelling case for the record’s stand out track as shimmering melodies float around Rankin’s sad lamentation – “In a fluorescent light antisocialites watch a wilting flower”.

It would be difficult to fault Antisocialites if it were not for the brief lapse felt as ‘Lollipop’ and ‘Already Gone’ stumble through an otherwise very consistent track list. Even still, they are not bad songs so much as they fail to offer anything particularly exciting towards the end of the record, but this is an album that needs to be heard live, and you’ve got to get out of the crowd for another beer at some point. For the most part, Alvvays’ new release glows with intensely listenable songs that are well put together and stay honest to their radiant and memorable sound.

IMAGE: Paul Hudson, Flickr

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