“In Undertow”

Arden Wray

“What’s next for you and me?
I’ll take suggestions while you toss and turn in undertow.
Time to let go”

At what point does the emotional weight of a breakup hit the hardest? The actual moment of separation is certainly brutal, but when the dust settles and both parties are left alone, disoriented in their contemplation of just what the hell they’re supposed to do next, the enormity of the change and the regret can be borderline unbearable.

On their new song “In Undertow”, Toronto’s Alvvays confront this transitional period between the initial heartache and the eventual resolve to move on. More broadly, Molly Rankin’s lyrics address our general aversion to change, and the fear that no matter how hard we try to actively hold onto certain moments, the ephemeral fluidity of our experience wins out in the end. However, instead of lamenting life’s tendency to change in spite of us, Rankin utilizes the song central metaphor to suggest that the only way to deal with the onslaught is to avoid trying to control the uncontrollable. Ultimately, the panic that takes over while caught in an undercurrent stems from a loss of control. And while the natural inclination is often to fight against it in order to reclaim agency, the best way forward is to allow the current to have its way with you before taking any subsequent action. Rankin puts an emphatic point on this idea during her reverberated refrain of “time to let go” over a drum fill that crashes and rolls before the song swells back into the chorus. It’s about as unhinged a moment as you’ll hear in an Alvvays song, and it’s one that renders the listener powerless before its raw, fleeting beauty.

“In Undertow” is pure, melancholic dream pop, anchored by Molly Rankin’s reliably strong vocal performance. While the song retains many of the sonic elements that Alvvays explored on their 2014 breakout LP, there is a more pronounced grit in the instrumentation that mingles well with Rankin’s ethereal melodies. The song has more in common with bands like Asobi Seksu and Wild Nothing than it does with the 60s AM-pop that defined the band’s self-titled record.

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