by Karina Abbott
Recommended if you like: Japanese Breakfast, Beach Fossils, Mac Demarco, and Waxahatchee
Favorite Tracks: 1, 2, 5, 10
After my show one night last Spring, I put automation back on before leaving the studio, and this voice came out of the speakers singing “Hey hey, marry me, archie”. Just typing the words doesn’t do the moment much justice. At the very least it was electric, sitting there in the cool blackness of the studio, nothing but me and this song. It captured me. The song was “Archie, Marry Me”, Alvvays’ 2014 single from their first, self-titled album, and the voice was their lead vocalist, Molly Rankin. Though they are enthralling, Rankin’s vocals aren’t the sole source of Alvvay’s magic. There is a lot more to them than that; the magnetism comes from the band as a whole. Having grown up near one another, on neighboring islands in the east coast, the members of Alvvays have a unique rapport. Rankin grew up writing music with her neighbour, keyboardist Kerri MacLellan. She later met guitarist and partner Alec O’Hanley at a concert in her teen years.There is no sorcery involved, but the combination of Rankin’s vocals, Kerri MacLellan on keyboard, Alec O’Hanley on lead guitar, Brian Murphy playing bass, and Sheridan Riley on drums certainly feels enchanting. Their dream pop sound is unparalleled in cohesiveness and charm.
When I heard they were coming out with their sophomore album, it felt like fate, because I had just discovered them and was already craving more tracks to dissect and obsess over. The first single, “In Undertow”, came out this summer on June 6th. It’s a strong song to lead into the new material, as it has all the aspects of an Alvvays anthem, including a killer guitar bit that layers nicely over the keyboard, a flawless build-up of drums at the climax of the song, and then a delicate and satisfying fade-out of Molly’s high-pitched “there’s no turning back”. “Dreams Tonite”, the second single, was released July 25th, and it’s simply bewitching. A perfect late-night-cruise song, with some of my favorite lines off of the entire album, such as “Who builds a wall just to let it fall down?”, “Anti Socialites watch a wilting flower”, and “Your face was supposed to be hanging over me like a rosary”. As many of their songs do, this one focuses on the touchy topic of love. Specifically, loving and caring for someone deeply, only to have that relationship fall apart, for one reason or another. When something that was dear to you for some time, suddenly isn’t so dear, there is this moment when you don’t quite know how to feel, because there are too many emotions all at once. “Dreams Tonite” sets out to help one cope with the reality of flawed people and imperfect relationships in the most delicate way possible. “Plimsoll Punks” was the third and final single released this summer. It’s the most energetic of the three and it strays slightly from their usual dream-poppy sound, bringing out a more pop-punk vibe from the group. The three singles together were entirely too exciting, as they were so different, but each wonderful in their own way. They made the anticipation of the full album’s release almost unbearable.
The album finally dropped itself upon this “weird weird world” on September 8th, the same day my beloved sister Sam was coming up from Florida to escape the torrents of hurricane Irma, and enjoy the excitement of our Iowa v. Iowa State weekend festivities. So there was a lot going on, and in the midst of my emotional tornado about all of it, there was this album. This beautiful, captivating album, “Antisocialites”. There are few times in a person’s life, where something so accurately reflects how they are feeling that it helps them realize what it is they actually want. Listening to this album was one of those times for me. It was midnight, “Antisocialites” had just dropped, and I was listening to it alone in my room. It so perfectly captured everything I had wanted it to. I felt that I needed to share it, so other people could hear this masterful personification of a piece of my soul. Then, out of nowhere, some of my friends walked through the front door, back from a successful Mug Night, having no idea what had just occurred in my realm of thought. We jumped up and down in the hallway; me, because I was excited to share the album with people I care about deeply, them, because jumping and squealing is entirely too contagious when you’re slightly inebriated. We then proceeded to listen to my newly favorite collection of songs, and though I could tell it wasn’t having the affect on them that it did on me, it was a moment I was grateful to have with them. I will always cherish moments like that, when people are genuine and kind, and willing to have something be shared with them, even if they don’t quite grasp the gravity that that thing holds for the other person.
Anyway, the whole thing is a masterpiece of guitar, keyboard, drums, Molly’s other-worldly vocals, and lyrics that cut deep into your heart and pull out all that stuff you forgot you had buried in there. It forces you to confront some of your deepest desires and fears through experiencing the emotions that go along with some of those situations. My favorite song on “Antisocialites”, “Forget About Life”, is my favorite for that very reason. Though it is the final song, it isn’t the finishing touch or cherry on top, it’s the pinnacle of Alvvay’s efforts to bring to life a feeling of eternity. From the slow and delicate beginning, to the wall of sound created by the keyboard part, and the simple but to-the-point lyrics, “Forget About Life” demonstrates a feeling of everlasting love, life, and friendship. There is nothing convoluted about it, you just get in a car, without a plan or destination, and drive, with the people you love most in this world sitting right next to you. To fully understand, you have to listen to the song, but like really listen to it, not just put it on in the background as you focus on something else. Let it take over, let it fill your head and envelop your heart; really let it in and then you’ll get it.
There is no road I don’t want to drive down, blasting this album at full volume, with all my friends singing and screaming in the background, because every song on ”Antisocialites” is filled with something tangible, something that makes you want to go on living this life as freely and wildly as possible, with as much feeling as one can muster.