It seems to me I’m writing a lot about music that’s about love lately. Love, and life in general, is unpredictable. Music, like an introspective sunset walk, is the perfect way to gain perspective on how and where love went wrong. We’ll never get it 100% right, but the more you’re willing to risk heartbreak and disappointment, the more you’ll learn about what it is your heart truly desires. Our meaning of love evolves over time, and that’s often reflected in the music we listen to and the music we make. There’s evidence on Antisocialites that Toronto’s Alvvays have undergone an evolution while sticking close to the musical formula that resonated with fans of their self-titled debut.
Warm, echo-laden guitar progressions combine with a decidedly post-punk approach to add some new depth to the mix. “Hey” blends together Devo and the Pixies (and introduces the best wrestling name no one’s ever used yet: Molly Mayhem). The warm, bouncy bass tones of “Plimsoll Punks” adds a nice layered touch to a song that’s half-British Invasion pop, half-CBGB’s punk. “Your Type” blends plucked guitars with bouncy drums and a three-chord chorus that is a welcome change of pace. As a wordplay connoisseur, I give them bonus points for the lyric “You’re an O and I’m AB”.
Lead single “In Undertow” attempts to answer Joe Strummer’s classic conundrum (“Should I stay or should I go?”) against a beachy, reverb-laden backdrop. “Dreams Tonite” solemnly reflects on whether a brief connection between two people leaves a significant enough impact. Both songs underscore a major lesson Alvvays have learned between albums one and two: how to reflect complex, interpersonal experiences through song structure and instrumentation. They capture the perfect blend of introspection, tension, and snark on “Saved By a Waif”. Singing “Mommy wants you to be a doctor so she can tell her friends you’re like your father,” vocalist Molly Rankin relates to every fellow 20-something caught between the college daze and the collapsing job market of post-grad life: do you make choices in life because they’ll make someone else happy, or because you want to do it for yourself?
Although Antisocialites is not a major musical evolution, Alvvays show significant signs of growth and maturity. Rankin has referred to the “fantasy breakup arc [where] life nearly imitated art” that runs through the record, a tone and frame of mind that the album’s production and songwriting expertly captures. Molly Mayhem and Co. have crafted the perfect breakup album not about an actual breakup that takes time to question and analyze its past, present, and future.