When Alvvays coined the term “manic emotional” in describing their latest album, Antisocialites, automatically everyone understood. That outpour of raw emotion, first seen on their self-titled debut in 2014 has become iconic of Alvvays. From teary eyed “Party Police” to remorseful “One’s Who Love You,” Alvvays brought the weight of nostalgic sadness, disappointment, and heartbreak when necessary while incorporating the anxiety, awkwardness, and excitement of love. With albums more like diaries and songs like vignettes, Molly Rankin, Kerri MacLellan, Alec O’Hanley, Brian Murphy, Sheridan Reilly, effectively walk the listener through the turmoil and triumphs of the last three years between the releases.
Beginning with an ending, ‘In Undertow’ plunges straight into the point of no return. Rankin details her attempts to distract herself through self defense, solitaire, and mediation from the deterioration of her relationship. She struggles to reconcile with the fact that there really is no way to undo or fix what’s happened as forces bigger than the two of them are pulling them apart at the seams. As she comes to terms with the ending a sort of catharsis takes over as she shifts from questioning “what’s next for you and me” to the declaring it's “time to let go.” Proclaiming she’s inspired what starts as a way to shift through her thoughts and salvage the relationship ends with the realization that “there’s no turning back.”
Followed by the clean-cut and ethereal ‘Dreams Tonite’ the progression from the initial blow to the aftermath continues in the cataloging of emotions. She spends most of the song wondering if she saw them again could she feel the same and trying to suppress the frustration stemming from the futile struggle to keep their love alive. There’s a certain distance as she lists the seemingly random impersonal details, the time of day, how she got there, how he’d play the lead guitar like she’s supplementing the way she felt with these incoherent details from a ghost of a person. The song leaves her completely vulnerable as she assigns him to a divine protection like a rosary, one she’s now lacking.
From there Alvvays diverges into that classic synth riddled dream pop that only they can execute with such precision, with quirky lyrics and a carefree charisma things seem to lighten up. Snappy and ebullient ‘You’re Type’ discussing gambling on a work visa and getting kicked out of the Louvre underscoring their fundamental differences. Still Rankin shrugs it off and reinforces her assumption of independence in ‘Not My Baby.’ Abandoning her role of the perfect girlfriend and opening her eyes to the realities of the relationship Rankin exerts herself as her own person. Despite the criticism she receives from her ex she continues to make choices with her happiness in mind. Abandoning the need to explain herself and justify her actions breeds a deeper freedom both in her actions and emotions. Reflected in the pop influences and easy rhythm, the song is as light as the lyrics making it an ideal break from the heavier things she’s shouldered.
Concluding with ‘Forget About Life,’ it seems Rankin is ready for the events that have unfolded over the course of the album to melt away for a few minutes. Starting slow but eventually collapsing in on itself as Rankins determination to get away reaches a crescendo the song spirals out into a chasm of reverb, synth, spacy hooks, and starry basslines. Escapism in the first degree her detachment from the world translates brilliantly in the almost New Order-esque ballad. Exiting on a note as dreamy as the one they blew in on there’s a sense of irony that after those internal battles and deliberations she’d wish to escape what she so painstakingly figured out.
The album seems to follow a storyline and conveys the maturity of Alvvays as they migrate away from their past tangles of emotions. A more developed feeling comes with the personal details like the candles on the mantel in ‘Plimsoll Punk’ and the features in the weekly paper in ‘Lollipop.’ Taking a more structured approach in expressing that unrefined, intense, raw emotion the band is even more effective in forging that deep connection with the listeners. Painfully relatable and poignant, Alvvays absolutely nailed it.