Alvvays

Antisocialites

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

After releasing a debut album of noisy pop that was perfectly formed and felt like the work of a band already at the summit of their career, it seemed like the only place Alvvays could have gone was down. Maybe sideways, at the very best. Instead, after taking their time both writing and recording the follow-up, they made a giant leap forward instead. Antisocialites has all the sticky hooks of the debut, all the boisterous noise, and the open-hearted honesty, too. What the band adds this time is confidence and skill, gained from the reception their debut got and also all the time they spent playing bigger and bigger shows. The sound of the album is bigger and the arrangements fuller and more spacious, giving the instruments room to breathe. It's a bit of a change, but it works in their favor, especially since Molly Rankin's vocals are a little more to the front of the mix and she sounds strong and fully in command of her voice, while retaining all the vulnerability she displayed before. The album is heavy with break-up songs and she captures the varying moods of a break-up with surgical precision. The pain seeps out of songs like "In Undertow" and "Not My Baby" like a fresh wound, while resigned anger flows through "Your Type" and a little bit of hope creeps into "Forget About Life." The songs too, aim for and hit their targets dead on, whether its melancholy nostalgia on the lovely new wave ballad "Dreams Tonite," the zippy dance-rock floor filler "Hey," or the bouncing pop-punker "Lollipop (Ode to Jim)." The instantly catchy "Plimsoll Punks" is the equal, hook-wise, of "Archie, Marry Me," and there's not a weak link anywhere. The production (courtesy of John Congleton) is layered and clean, with reverb and noise used as a spice instead of a main course. Unlike the first album, where things tended to blend together into a whirring blur of noise, things are both more restrained and more exciting here. It's down to dynamics and arrangements, both of which they pay close attention to at all times. The guitars aren't just a Wall of Sound, there are great riffs, lines, and sounds that pop in and out of the mix. The backing vocal harmonies are more a part of the sound this time too, and Kerri MacLellan's keyboards are even audible sometimes. Thanks to the care and feeding the band put into their sound, Antisocialites manages the rare feat of a band topping their brilliant debut with a sophomore effort that's even more brilliant. Alvvays make it looks easy, and by the time the album is done spinning, it's hard not to start thinking about how great their next record could be.

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