Album Review: Alvvays – Antisocialites

By Becky Little (@sometimesboring)

Before we get underway with all the serious stuff, let’s just be clear on one thing: Alvvays are the cutest band in the world. So twee! So dreamy! Ah! On with the show!

Having burst onto the scene with their eponymous album being released in 2014, the dreamy Canadian four-piece are probably best known for Archie, Marry Me, one of those songs you just have to sway to. Now, 2 years later, they are back with second album, Antisocialites, which lives up to the promise of their debut. According to the band’s frontwoman Molly Rankin, they’d probably be best described as “jangly” indie pop, with their tracks varying from lullaby-like to incredibly upbeat. Adding to this, Pitchfork recently described them as being laced with the sounds of the 1960s in their recent review of the band’s sophomore release.

The album somewhat shows a newfound maturity both stylistically but also in production; as while their debut was endearingly lovey-dovey and lo-fi, the lyrics of songs such as Not My Baby (“no need to turn around to see what’s behind me“) and In Undertow (“there’s no turning back after what’s transpired”) suggest that perhaps things have moved on and there are bigger fish to fry. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, Alvvays are still staying true to themselves and keeping up with their signature fast and poppy brand with tracks like Your Type and Lollipop (Ode to Jim), which could arguably be seen as a nod to the style of earlier tracks such as Adult Diversion and Atop a Cake.

On the topic of production, it’s very clear that Rankin and co have upped the ante. Their sound has developed from hazy bedroom pop into well-produced, spine-tingling and game-changing indie. That being said, it is noticeable in Dreams Tonite that Rankin‘s voice gets a little lost under the production, which is probably the single worthy criticism of the album. However, this little flaw could be purposeful as the track itself does display a slight element of melancholic vulnerability, juxtaposed to the “I’m over it” attitude of In Undertow it can display that there are two sides to every breakup.

It appears that the album is full of subtle juxtapositions. Lollipop (Ode to Jim) is a hilarious jeer at a presumptuous ex-partner responsible for a sketchy introduction to LSD. Rankin must really have been sick of this person since the song ends in her chanting “alter my state to get through this date”. On the other hand, Saved by a Waif is instead a rant about the pressures of family life and how restricting it can sometimes be (very #relatable content); “Mommy wants you to be a doctor so she can tell her friends” could ring true to many.

For an album of 33 minutes, Alvvays have really managed to jam pack Antisocialites with some total gems, namely the first single from the release and opening track In Undertow. It is here that the band does itself an immense amount of justice and shows just how far they have come since the days of Archie. It’s clear that Antisocialites is a wave goodbye to the days of their happy go lucky brand with the introduction of lyrics which mock and contradict, but they manage to stay grounded and genuine. Alvvays have truly grown up.

9/10

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ALBUM REVIEW: Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Ride

Just under half of 2016 has passed by already and we have already witnessed the arrival of a number of much discussed albums, from the endlessly hyped The Life of Pablo to the lightning fast appearance of A Moon Shaped Pool. Whether these albums have been mainly promoted by the artists themselves in Kanye West’s case or eagerly awaited and anticipated by critics as for Radiohead, there has not been a release in recent memory that relied so heavily on the eagerness of the fans of a band’s debut album, despite little critical success, than Catfish and the Bottlemen’s The Ride.

Almost completely dismissed by critics in 2014, The Balcony defied all odds and found a large audience due to its undeniable likeability and Catfish and the Bottlemen rose in popularity at a phenomenal rate. Less than two years on, Catfish and the Bottlemen have amassed an unprecedented following and prepare for yet another busy festival season and bring with them their much anticipated second album. Of course as previously mentioned, this album as not arrived without excessive speculation, optimistic and pessimistic alike, but when listening to this album I felt it was important to put all that aside and have as much of an untainted viewpoint as possible.

Surprisingly, that was not too hard to achieve. As album opener 7 comes and goes, it becomes clear this album is exactly what it promised to be, which is another 10 or so Catfish and the Bottlemen songs. Nothing more, nothing less. There is little evidence of any progression in their sound which is strange for a band that have experienced so much growth in popularity since their debut. There is nothing to distinguish any track on this from one on their debut except a slight depreciation in quality and character. To their credit, Catfish and the Bottlemen have never professed to be anything more than they are and sometimes you have to wonder if their reputation exceeds them, but the impression gained from The Ride is that they don’t mind relying on it.

Instead of trying to earn all the praise and hype they receive, they have banked on it to carry them to more success despite playing it unforgivably safe on this album. They have no intention on winning over their critics, they are happy to keep churning out crowd pleasing sing-alongs that people can sing along to drunkenly at festivals. It is incredibly unfortunate to see such a waste of potential from what could have been a pivotal moment from Catfish and the Bottlemen.

With all that said, The Ride is hard to completely hate, it’s just not as shamelessly enjoyable as its predecessor. As mentioned beforehand, it is nothing new but if you found some enjoyment in listening to The Balcony from time to time, you’ll likely feel similarly about The Ride. Likewise, if you completely could not stand the first album you aren’t going to like this one much either and vice versa if you loved The Balcony.

To put it simply, The Ride is no new chapter for Catfish and the Bottlemen but merely a collection of new songs their fans can sing back every word as they continue to tour extensively and climb festival line-ups. It does nothing to justify their success but does nothing to jeopardise it either. It is exactly the record they intended it be.

4/10

-Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

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ALBUM REVIEW: Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

A well-documented obstacle in the music industry is the dreaded second-album and after listening to any great debut album, it is often hard to wonder anything other than if it can be matched, never mind improved on. However for me, there is an even greater pressure on a band’s third album, the album that will truly finalise what they are and how they will be perceived.

Modern Baseball, on their first two albums, produced endlessly fun and witty pop-punk music, and proved to be a valuable addition to the invigorated genre along with the likes of Neck Deep and The Front Bottoms. By releasing a third similar album that was just as strong they would have still undoubtedly cemented themselves as one of the leading bands in the genre, but to the great delight of any fan of the genre and the band itself, they had no intention of playing it safe.


The growth Modern Baseball display on Holy Ghost resonates similarly to the way FIDLAR’s sophomore album Too did last year. Whilst not completely reinventing themselves as a band, the album shows a natural growth in their outlook on their previous themes and makes for much more rewarding material, giving the album a wealth of personality and warmth. Similarly to Too, Holy Ghost might not be as instantly satisfying as their previous albums and may not contain crowd pleasing anthems such as Your Graduation from 2014’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, but is undoubtedly their most substantial record and their best work yet.

Of course, no one can conjure up depth into their songwriting from nowhere and Modern Baseball’s two frontmen, Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, have had no shortage of the kind of experiences that can lead to an album as personal as Holy Ghost. Since You’re Gonna Miss It All, Ewald has suffered the loss of a family member and Lukens has undergone rehabilitation and both through their lyrics have had to do a fair amount of growing up from their angsty songs about girls and being awkward.

Due to the fact both of the bands writers have very different themes to convey, they made a conscious decision to split the album in two, with Ewald’s half consisting of the first six songs whilst Lukens penned the final five. Thankfully, their bond as band members and friends causes the two halves to blend effortlessly and again helps to make this a very heartfelt and personal record.

Ewald’s half begins with the title track Holy Ghost which sets the tone for the deeper ideas and concepts that he develops over the duration of his tracks about dealing with the loss and the realisation of how important it is to value personal relationships of any kind. His lyrics on this album warm us to him because of his honesty. An example of this is on album highlight Note to Self where Ewald admittedly comments on his own lyrics “Words just whining, every fucking day, What do I really want to say?”. This idea of striving to be open through his art is a strong theme throughout his half and shines greatest when paired with his trademark observations of his and others behaviours such as on Hiding, a song about reflecting on personal growth which once again demonstrates Modern Baseball’s growth as a band.

Whilst Ewald’s half relies heavily on self-exploitation and nostalgia, Lukens leans more towards outright emotion and brutal honesty with himself. Consisting mostly of shorter, angrier tracks Lukens faces his issues with aggression and his half has a natural progression to it, from frustration to realisation. Breathing in Stereo outlines the negative effects touring had on Lukens and how he allowed it to damage his relationships however it has a more mature outlook on this than it would had this song been on their previous albums.
The next two songs build on his development and realisation of how to overcome his problems until album closer
Just Another Face which is a triumphant victory song that serves as a fitting summary of the album, that Modern Baseball won’t let personal issues define them. Instead they will use their position to help them develop as people. This is the overall theme of Holy Ghost and draws us closer to Modern Baseball, reminding us that they are people too and makes this a very emotive and resonant record.

So with their third album, Modern Baseball have transitioned into a new phase of their career with an important release and have doubt set the bar for future albums of the genre. Holy Ghost is an important album without trying to be, it’s just two guys talking to their fans, which makes it incredibly likeable and their most satisfying album so far.

8/10

– Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

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Grimes New Album Is Halfway Done And Full Of “Synth-y Shit”

While Canadian musician Grimes said she was set to take a well deserved break after releasing her critically acclaimed 2015 album Art Angels, it seems like we may be hearing new material sooner rather than later.

In a Q+A session with Rolling Stone, Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, described the new album as being more chilled out than her previous LP:

With Art Angels, it was all like [growls]. This would be more chill vibes, downtempos, synth-y shit. That makes it sound boring. It’s not boring.

So it’s clear that the sound that Boucher went for last time around, which was in part an attack on people thinking she was “too cute and scared to engage”, will at least be getting a breather. However, she also stated that she is planning more than one album:

“You know how Lana Del Rey put out Paradise Edition after Born To Die? It would be like that. There are songs I seriously considered for Art Angels, but they fucked with the momentum when I tried to put them on the record.”

So what do you make of this news? Personally I can’t complain as Art Angels was one of the best albums I heard last year so the more, the merrier! Let me know what you think in the comments down below and follow this blog for more news and reviews.

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