Third-rate Atheism
God Save the Queen

Alvvays: Antisocialites

Let's get this out of the way: it's pronounced "always." Or so says AllMusic.

Every time I think all the life is gone from pop music, something like this band comes along to prove that it isn't dead yet. I don't mean something that sounds like this, but anything that I can be enthusiastic about, even if it's the kind of dark enthusiasm that I got some years ago when I first heard The Cure's Disintegration: something that's really a fresh achievement, something so good that I want to tell people about it. Antisocialites is not especially innovative, just very very good. Rob G introduced me to it, for which I thank him. 

In a better world this song would be a hit single:

This is the first track, and my favorite, but only by a very narrow margin. Naturally, I like some of the songs better than others, but I like at least half of them about as much as I do "In Undertow," and the others are quite good. Most are irresistibly catchy, to my ears at least. 

I usually try to give any new album three reasonably attentive and open-minded hearings before committing myself to a positive or negative opinion--especially a negative one, because often something that doesn't do much for me at first gets better with more listening. But I liked this one instantly, and have now heard it at least five times with no less pleasure. It's almost hard to believe that guitar-based pop-rock can still sound as fresh as this does.

The singer's voice is a big part of the freshness: it's not spectacular or dramatically emotive or strikingly distinctive, just young and clear and accurate and, well, fresh. It's almost a bonus that the lyrics are intelligible and often clever. In "In Undertow" the speaker says

"What's left for you and me?"
I ask that question rhetorically

and then a bit later

"What's left for you and me?"
You respond to my question metaphorically

Sounds like Aimee Mann, and that's a big compliment.

The album is a bit old-fashioned in that it's short: ten songs of what used to be the typical length of three minutes or so. It occurs to me to wonder whether it was deliberately kept short to be more LP-compatible: at not much over thirty minutes it's comparable to many of the great albums of the pre-CD era. Or maybe they just didn't want to include anything that was less than first-rate. Good decision either way. There aren't that many pop musicians who can keep me interested for the 60-plus minutes that CDs made possible. 

Here's a live performance of "In Undertow." I don't know about you but it's somewhat rare for me to watch a band performing without being annoyed by a lot of stagey forced-looking posturing. They don't do any of that, and it's refreshing. 

 

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Glad you like this. My youngest nephew put me onto this a couple years back -- he was 18, and at that time had a thing for this sort of breezy/loud pop stuff (he still does to a certain extent). While some of the things he recommended were a bit too "twee" for me, this was one of the ones I liked immediately. The song that he played for me was "Dreams Tonight."

I remember when I first looked them up that I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the lead singer/songwriter Molly Rankin was the daughter of one of the members of the Rankin Family, a Canadian folk-pop group that I listened to a lot in the 90's when I was in a Celtic folk band. Alas, her father, group-member John Morris Rankin, was killed in a car accident in 2000.

I read that (about her father) on Allmusic but have never heard or up until then heard of the band.

Someone reported to me that Wikipedia lists "twee pop" as one of the sub-genres applicable to Alvvays. I objected. I don't think it's twee at all. It's good strong stuff, not cutesy at all. Wikipedia also suggests "dream pop" and "shoegaze." Sort of, I guess, at least the former. But then I gather their first album is noisier. I haven't heard it yet. "Dreams Tonight" is one of my favorites.

There are quite a few bands that have this basic sound, but most of them do not have the catchiness.

It's similar for shoegaze music. I recently listened to an album that someone mentioned to me, and after I listened to it I thought, "Basically Slowdive without the melodies."

Catchiness is a strange thing. Almost magical. Three days after listening to Antisocialites, I was still having four or five of those tunes pop into my head. They're really simple, and yet they're...catchy. *So* catchy.

"In a better world this song would be a hit single"

I agree.

I thought exactly the same thing first time I heard this a couple months back:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T84FZgvvr6I

Of course, you'd need a "radio edit" version because of the length.

Yeah. I recently happened to be in earshot of a radio playing what I took to be current popular music. Gosh, what a drag...to use an antique expression. So turgid and canned-sounding.

There's a store called FYE (For Your Entertainment) in both of the malls that are near me. I sometimes go in to look at their DVD sales, etc., but I seldom last longer than 10 minutes because the music is so bad. As you say, very canned and "processed" sounding -- juvenile and predictable.

I read something the other day about young people not liking singers who are NOT auto-tuned, because their voices are what they call "pitchy" -- not exact enough.

New Alvvays album coming in October:

https://alvvays.bandcamp.com/album/blue-rev

Thanks, I'll definitely check that out.

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