OCTOBER: Alvvays – Antisocialites

It’s “at last” in more ways than one (with profuse apologies for the incredible tardiness of this review) – last in that this is my final contribution as being one of the Brothers on this rather wonderful blog.  Opening those windows and throwing them open wide to the music I’ve been exposed to for the last… eighteen months or so…? has been a joy and I’m thankful to my fellow the Brothers for bringing me into the fold.  At last, as well, to Alvvays in bringing which seems to have been a long time coming, ie that elusively consistent indie album.  Such things tend to be a rarity, as we know.  There are, more often than not, dips and on repeated listens, those tracks which we just skip by in search of the one that grabs us.  That’s not to say that Antisocialites is perfect all the way through – but the skip point for me doesn’t appear until Already Gone, track eight from ten, and even then that’s the only one.

But I’m getting ahead of myself somewhat; Alvvays grabbed my attention with 2014’s release of the achingly glorious and sweepingly sublime Archie, Marry Me, about as classic as modern alternative music can get and stands Up There with the greats.  Forward then, pinging on three years and we have the second long player from the Toronto quintet.  They’ve not moved on a bunch in terms of their sound, so there’s no gear change progression in their approach.  Indeed, they road tested much of what ended up on Antisocialites when on tour through 2015 and 16, so they’ve stuck with their “jangly pop” (the band’s own description for their brand of music) which fits in with their existing catalogue.  Still, reinventing the wheel isn’t always essential and their craft is honed splendidly here.  Melody remains at the heart of their art; it’s the hooks that grab and won’t let go – the trainer-pogo Plimsoll Punks evokes memories of bouncing indie discos featuring stupidly wide grins as That Guitar Riff makes you jump that little bit higher.

There’s a lot to appreciate with Alvvays’ occasionally etherial electronica where they exude an other-worldliness distance which bleeds through time and again; Forget About Life is pure romance and the sweetest proposition to simply hang out, be faithful to your own being and spend time with someone who means the world.  It’s enough to make a middle aged reviewer sit back, smile and sigh in reflection that sometimes, things aren’t that bad and, indeed, can be pretty good.  But looking back in the collection, Forget About Life was quite neatly foreshadowed earlier by the album’s second single, Dreams Tonite and it’s worth following the link as it’s a time capsule video, capturing Alvvays’ vintage but modern look and feel.  Look out for the hat tip to MuchFACT, the Canadian music fund towards the end of the short.

Antisocialites ticks the indie kid box and appeals to the electronica side of my tastes and if those two loves can be catered for, that’s usually a win for me and that’s what we’ve got here.

4 comments

  1. David Allison

    Firstly, sad to see you go, Paul, thanks so much for all your contributions.

    So. Onto Alvvays. In many ways, this album is the perfect reason this blog works so well. I was aware them from 6Music, but would I have bought this album? Doubt it. Did I slightly write them off as another generic indie band? Probably. Have I found myself really enjoying this? Yup!

    Alvvays are hardly going to win an originality contest. They draw on the deep pool of the last 30 years of indie music. Two particular influences jump out to me – one is the guitar sound of the Cocteau Twins and other 4AD bands (that shimmering sound on Dreams Tonite is straight off Blue Bell Knoll era Cocteaus). The other influence is the NME C86 cassette and mid 80s jangle pop and all those many, many bands called ‘The’ Somethings. Plimsoll Punks could sit side by side on the C86 cassette, alongside The Primitives and The Shop Assistants (‘Your Type’ could easily be a Shop Assistants song. Look em up on YouTube and see what I mean). Yes, I am that old, people. But – and here’s the clincher – if it was on the C86 compiliation, it’d be a bloody highlight. It’s a flipping brilliant song.

    And that, in the end, is what stands out – some really stellar indie tune songwriting. There’s a wealth of really memorable and lovely tunes on here, and that’s what’s drawn me in. I also like her rather plaintive voice and I feel like I’m listening to someone who’s vulnerability and personality is right up in the mix.

    So, no, it’s not the most groundbreaking record ever made. It doesn’t blow your socks off. But it does invite you in and offer you a glass of wine and somewhere very pleasant to spend some time. What’s not to like?

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Ah Paolo. It’s sad to see you go, but, like Kurgen in Highlander, you burnt out, rather than faded away. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be back (I hope you will, like a celebrity edition, at least) one day. This is a very Paul album, in all the best ways. And it’s a lovely way to wave you off into the dog-walking sunset after a period that shook us all up nicely, and gave the blog a slightly different slant.

    What is ‘indie’ these days anyway? Who knows? What I DO know is that this is indie. It’s an indefinable thing, but you know when you hear it. I’d actually realised that I know ‘Archie, Marry Me’ from 6Music, and it fell into the well-worn ‘that’s nice, I wonder who that is’ category of bands whose names I often never find out, and then quietly forget (though I fell in love with Michael Kiwanuka this way). So it’s some nice synchronicity to see this return here, and it’s a lovely thing. As others have already said, it’s not an album that will win any prizes for originality, but then we can’t be surprised all the time, and there’s a warm, 90s guitar fug about this that feels like we’ve heard it before, but not in a remotely bad way.

    The album zips through: a lively, bright dance, that doesn’t tax you, but washes over in a pleasing, refreshing way. There’s an uncomplicated joy to it, its straightforwardness is one of its biggest assets, and it’s an album that I’ve found myself turning to when I’m tired, fed up of Brexit, the news, work, and need something to pep me up. In Undertow is already a great way to hit that spot.

    I hope it stays that way. It’s a nice little gem, Paul.

  3. nolankane706

    Brother Paul, it’s a shame to see you go… but I must point out that your swan song of an album is a winner!

    Routinely when I read or hear the term ‘Indie Pop’ by eyes glaze over and my soul has left the conversation. The reason behind this in simple; it’s an over used term that rarely rings true. Most times it’s an indie band that attempt melodies and never really get there or perhaps a pop band that dresses indie. The actuality of Indie Pop is a rarity and the world needs more of it.

    The Alvvay’s are a wonderful ray of light. They have that fantastic pop knack to sound familiar from the start but firmly have their own style. I get brother David’s point about an origioanlity contest, but really who cares? Familiar sounds are fine, as long as there is something to back them up. With this album I think the lyrics a strong and add something unexpected.

    For me, this is the kind of album that you have an in the car and your mate askes you who it is. It’s music that is easy to approach and like, and will be getting constant play in our house for the near future.

    Thanks for all the fish brother Paul, you’ve dropped your mic and left us with a cracker.

  4. misterstory

    And the prize for ‘most indie’ goes to … Yes Guy makes a good point this is definitely ‘indie’ what ever that is. It also highlights that if this is indie, then I don’t listen to any ‘indie’! It felt quite strange if I am hones to have such sounds playing through our house which always made this feel like a oddity for me. I will be totally honest … my wife hated this. Kind of actively hated it which is odd as I think of its as totally inoffensive and benign. I never really got to the bottom of this hatred but it was there and it did limit my exposure to the album.

    For me, this fits into the ‘I’m glad I’ve got it, but rarely reach for it category’. I do hear it everywhere I go which always makes me smile when I realise what it is and why I know it. And I love the cover of that Primitives track (insert appropriate irony emoji)!

    More importantly, Paul, its been a pleasure having you as part of the brotherhood. Thank you for your albums. Please feel free to pop your head into the blog and drop in some thoughts. Good luck with your business and everything else.

    Take it easy brother.

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