Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Alvvays

  • Alvvays [Polyvinyl, 2014] B+
  • Antisocialites [Polyvinyl, 2017] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Alvvays [Polyvinyl, 2014]
Molly Rankin's wan, naturally flat soprano renders her ironically upbeat cannot-love ditties more credible, and "Next of Kin" extends the cliche to a suitably alarming metaphorical extreme in which a suitor drowns due to Molly's emotional ineptitude. So no wonder her excited new fanbase is so relieved by "Archie, Marry Me." Assuming the challenged couple get to cut that cake, I wish them many lubricious years of one-on-one "debauchery"--Rankin's word, and I sincerely hope it's no metaphor. B+

Antisocialites [Polyvinyl, 2017]
From what I gather--she's not forward about it and has no obligation to be--when I refer to the Molly Rankin of this album I mean the Molly Rankin character. The biographical Molly Rankin seems committed to an ongoing romantic relationship with guitarist Alec O'Hanley. The character is more rootless or footloose, hence easier for young indie-rockers to relate to--easier to write songs for, too. Where her debut topped a bunch of cannot-love songs with the upbeat "Archie, Marry Me," here Archie is gone, and despite a few independent-female-on-the-town moments, the lyrical evidence doesn't bespeak an emotional life fit to support an album. But the musical evidence does. It's an optimistic alt-pop she calls "plimsoll," a retro flourish no one else with comparable brains and backbone risked in 2017 (though I alvvays thought it was "plimsoul"). For 10 tracks running, Rankin and O'Hanley's little band ring the bell every time, and while the hooks and harmonic tricks are nothing new, they have more brio than most. So Molly the bandleader and Molly the character have a key virtue in common: they know what they want and know how to get it. A-