Somber feel, sound

ALVVAYS PLAYS at the Sasquatch! festival. They evolve their sound in their new album.

After more than three years of silence following the release of their self-titled album, Alvvays dropped what I believe may be one of the best pop albums of the year. The transition from their original poppy, upbeat style into a more dreamy alternative style is one of the most prevalent shifts in Alvvays’ sophomore album, Antisocialites, and the grace with which they handled this transition still strikes me on every listen.

This album encapsulates the way it feels to break up with someone all the way through to the end of the relationship, as well as describing the way it feels to get caught up in that end of relationship purgatory that can sometimes arise while working to move forward. This shift in itself was quite dramatic, coming from the stories of their first album with the most popular song, “Archie, Marry Me,” embodying a sort of proposal remarkably rhyming “alimony” with “matrimony.” Though this new album lacks that same “Archie” musically and lyrically, it still encapsulates the sound that listeners have come to know and love through Alvvays’ career.

This new album encapsulates growth and change in more than just style. Beyond the shift toward a more shoegazing, dream pop sound, this band has grown emotionally since their debut. This emotional change is beautifully exemplified through the musical change that premiers in this album, showing the way we are able to learn from our experiences as we feel their effects. The way their slower songs are presented amidst their more standard fast-paced jams, while still maintaining a sort of excitement might be surprising, considering the stories being told, but follows very well. This can be seen clearly in the album’s fifth track, “Not My Baby,” which opens with a much slower, certainly more forlorn beach vibe that tells the story of a relationship that ended, and the more immediate moving on that comes with that sort of transition. Through this whole song, however, singer Molly Rankin maintains a more melancholic tune that shows very well that this is not just a feel-good breakup song; there is still some sadness involved in the moving on, something that most people who have been romantically involved at any point in their life will understand. Of course, the following track jumps right back up to their more familiar funky pop sound that reaffirms the necessity to recognize people as they are through all hardships. Rankin sings, “it feels like forever since you’ve held me like a human being/ and I am a human being,” as we’re all worthy of love no matter what we’re feeling like.

Through their whole album, a more ethereal, dreamlike sound is maintained, that fits beautifully with the story they’re telling. Growing from the more standard, excited love songs of their first album into the fuller sound found in Antisocialites, Alvvays curates a sound that exemplifies a sharpening of focus in their music without losing sight of what they’ve worked to define themselves as.