by TheLongShot USER (20 Reviews)
December 7th, 2017 | 9 replies

Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: There's no turning back after what's transpired.

Heading into their sophomore release Antisocialites, Alvvays find themselves searching for an identity that helps them stand out from the general indie pop scene. Not that their self-titled debut record flopped, mind you; au contraire, it fits quite snugly in the wash of jangle pop records that have overtaken a large sect of indie pop over the past few years. The issue is that it fits so snugly the album’s personality is almost completely stripped as a result. The production, the vocals, the song structures; all of the album’s various traits seem to fall in the “okay”-to-”pretty good” range without anything standing out as particularly “significant” or “worthy of notoriety”. Luckily for them, Alvvays seem to be as conscious of this as anyone else, and for Antisocialites the band seeks to set themselves apart from the crowd, if only a little bit.

This push towards individuality comes in the form of incorporating elements from dream pop and shoegaze into the band’s sound. The overall drive and character of the instrumentals from the debut is still largely retained, but there’s an additional shimmer to everything, as synths pop in to accompany the tracks in whatever way is necessary, whether it be in a featured role, as ornamentations or as a general backdrop to everything else. Alvvays generally don’t let these normally lighter sounds define the material, however, as the production stays relatively subdued and devoid of brightness. Perhaps this is the band’s way of trying to prevent themselves from venturing too far into the realms of synthpop, a genre known for its ear-catchingly bright sounds and a (fair or unfair, depending on who you ask) stereotype of immaturity.

That being said, if Alvvays is indeed attempting to make a statement of maturity here, it’s not a statement I can entirely buy. The songwriting has not advanced particularly far from the debut, the primary difference being that the added element of synths gives the material some sonic variety the debut didn’t have. Indeed, it’s the tracks with the densest productions that shine the most, for they provide a better cloak to shield the relatively derivative nature of the songwriting. There are occasional moments of intrigue in the general vibe of this album, such as the dissonant beeps and other assorted sound effects on “Already Gone” and the prominently discordant guitar that pops in once or twice on the track “Saved by a Waif”, but these moments are extremely few and far between.

The vocals are another point where Antisocialites is somewhat lackluster. Molly Rankin, while perennially palatable, has little to offer except her reasonably pleasing tone, and even that is drowned out half the time by how far back her vocals are in the mix, often having to fight with the reverb-laden guitars and drums for prominence. In their attempts to create a less “cheesy” sound than their synth-heavy contemporaries, Alvvays more often than not end up with a mix where everything kind of mushes together with no real distinction, no “pop” to it. This works in some cases, such as the standout opening track “In Undertow” (as close to true synthpop as they come on here), but more often than not it just reinforces the “lack of standout characteristics” argument.

While they have given themselves more of an identity than they had prior to this record, Alvvays still haven’t really made a case for them being any sort of a standout in the land of indie pop. Yet again, I came away from this record with the perception that they’re more in the upper echelon of second-tier bands from the genre than anywhere close to the first tier. But I can't discredit Antisocialites too much for that. What Alvvays have going for them is a sound that is unabashedly pleasant; the tracks here don’t grate on the ears by being too bright or obtrusive, they merely pass by in an inoffensive (and usually reasonably enjoyable) fashion. And the change of sound for this album combined with the select few brief moments of experimentation suggest that they have stronger, somewhat more ambitious albums in them. Whether or not those albums will ever be made is merely a matter of whether they have the desire to become more creative with their sound or not. And if they choose to just play it safe and make more records like this, the results are too damn pleasant for me to complain much about them.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
December 7th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

This is very well written and I can kinda see where you are coming from but oh man do I disagree! I think they strike just the right balance between progression from their debut, and writing incredibly sturdy pop rock tunes. I'm an overthinker though, and find the production to be quite in tune with the themes of overcoming the toxic environment of a relationship and the resulting break-up. A genre classic that could go toe-to-toe with any of its influences.

December 7th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Hmm, interesting take on the production there. Personally I can see how it gives off that effect but I also wonder if that isn’t more by happenstance than judgement. Maybe if the lyrical content connected stronger with me I’d appreciate the nature of the production more. Fair play for liking it as much as you do though man

December 7th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

This and their debut are just really well put together ...they're not groundbreaking or anything but I thoroughly enjoy both. Nice review and valid criticisms, I just find the lack of originality or innovation with this band not really bothersome. They have a sound and they sound well...doing that sound.

Digging: The Police - Outlandos d'Amour

December 8th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

To me I feel like they can do even more to make that sound more distinct, but indeed the sound they have is still nice enough

December 8th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

this has just kept growing on me more and more. vocals and hooks are best in the genre.

December 8th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

^agreed, the vocal melodies here are super duper top notch. i think you're overthinking the production; i find it very immersive and her vocals are just fine where they are in the mix.

this album is so fun to listen to.

December 10th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Same fam, this album is a bit of a grower in my experience. The more I listen the more I love how groooooovy it is.

Digging: ABBA - Arrival

Staff Reviewer
December 25th 2017


plimsoll punks is hot

January 7th 2018


Album Rating: 3.5

I somehow overlooked this because I got them mixed up with Wavves

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