It's second-album time for Alvvays, the phonetically challenged darlings of the underground media whose band name is pronounced "always" – some sort of reverse Greta Garbo speak.
Toronto's Alvvays is led by Molly Rankin, daughter of the late John Morris Rankin, a fiddler with the first family of Nova Scotian Celtic folk, the Rankin Family. She's a dreamy deadpanner, with a novelist's vocabulary to work with. She's an articulate introvert: One imagines her gazing down at her own penny loafers as she rhymes "The night is like a fading radio" with "The lake was frozen over long ago." She sounds like she'd be totally okay if you weren't still standing there when she raised her eyes at the end of one of her precise songs.
The new album is Antisocialites. It's quite good – 10 tracks and 33 minutes of tight, clever twee rock with punk influences tastefully hidden. Melodies are pleasant ones. The bass player knows what he's doing. There's a jangle to the band's jingles. Some of you are old enough to remember the Go-Go's. They used to have the beat; Alvvays has it now.
The word "always" infers a consistency, an infallibility. The indie-pop troupe is too young in the game to have earned those adjectives yet, but they're on their way. The band's audience isn't going anywhere. Sophomore-slump predictors weren't on the money.
The band's hit track, Archie, Marry Me, from its self-titled 2014 debut was a wry reaction to societal exceptions when it comes to love, domesticity and wedding-gown best-before dates.
Antisocialites, according to chief songwriter Rankin, reflects a "fantasy breakup arc." She closes off the hustling track Your Type with "Let me state delicately, 'You're an O and I'm an AB.'" What a lovely departure from something like the hoary "It's not you, it's me" line. On the gauzy opening track In Undertow, Rankin dismisses astrology, declaring she "won't rely on the moon for anything." When it comes to compatibility, astrological signs are for chumps. Rankin goes by blood type instead.
Or maybe she goes it alone. The slinky Not My Baby features a departing motorcycle, its engine noise fading. "Now I prefer silence," she sings. "Now that I'm not your baby, I feel alive for the very first time."
On Dreams Tonite, a softly-lit salute to the Cocteau Twins or 'Til Tuesday maybe, Rankin wonders, "If I saw you on the street, would I have you in my dreams tonight?" Relationships are tough. Fantasies are forever. Rankin and Alvvays will keep dreaming until reality comes up with something better.