A few weeks back, Toronto dream pop band Alvvays dropped Antisocialites, their highly anticipated follow-up to their acclaimed self-titled debut. In addition to being one of the best albums of the year, the album marks a bit of an evolution in the band’s sound. Their debut, a beautiful collection of dreamy lo-fi pop songs, was built around lyrics and a unique sound that encapsulated frontwoman Molly Rankin’s melancholic longing for sunnier times. Mostly recorded in a snowed-in cabin in Calgary, these feelings weren’t difficult for her and the band to conjure up. The new record, however, shows Alvvays breaking out of this long winter and into the sunlight. Recorded in Los Angeles, Antisocialites is a gorgeous record that expands upon the sounds and themes of their debut through a brighter and more energetic lens. The shoegazey fuzz and wistful tone of the debut remain central to Alvvays’ sound on Antisocialites, but the production is more vibrant, the songs are more upbeat, and the vocals are stronger and more direct.
Last week, I had the chance to interview Molly about Antisocialites. When asked about the faster pace and bigger sound of the new album, Molly mentions that this evolution wasn’t some conscious decision to expand upon the sound of the first album, but came about more as a result of the band’s evolving influences finding their way into the structure of the new songs. “I have to think it was from listening to the B-52s so much,” she concludes. Upon further listening, the influence of the B-52s on Antisocialites is clear. The album’s more upbeat tracks like “Your Type” and “Hey” are like B-52s songs by way of Stereolab, combining new wave party pop with the emotional detachment that marked their debut.
Molly and I also talked about the pressure of putting out a second album. Their first album, which was hyped by fans and music bloggers before it was even released, launched Alvvays into the festival circuit and roughly two years of constant touring. In the first few weeks after their debut was released, Molly was already getting questions about releasing a follow-up. “At a certain point,” she mentions, “the pressure of shutting everything down and creating more songs and recording them becomes more of a looming presence.” Many of the songs on Antisocialites had been percolating for awhile and were included in the band’s performances, but finding the time to record and mix them proved difficult for the band.
I wrapped up my conversation with Molly by asking her how she viewed the band within the larger context of the music scene. I mentioned that in my experience, Alvvays sometimes bridges the gap between indie rock and poppier music––they’re a band beloved by both fans of indie rock and fans of more mainstream pop music. But Molly seemed to bristle a little at this characterization. “I do really love some big pop, it’s a really fun template to play with,” she replied, “but I also like a lot of spunkier things, I think we touch on a lot of different genres that I don’t really care to have us categorize ourselves as because then it just becomes really precious. Sometimes I say we’re a pop band, sometimes I say we’re a rock band. It’s probably a mixture of both.”
Regardless of how you characterize Alvvays, you can’t deny that they’re one of the best bands out there. Catch them at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Friday, October 6th.
Photo by Arden Wray.