By Nicole Rosenthal, Contributing Writer
Within the past few decades, it has become customary for artists to attempt to sell their sound by focusing on their image. It is, without a doubt, brilliant for an artist to expand into a visually creative field. But, in an era of artists donning ski masks, holograms and meat dresses, we must ask ourselves this question: at which point does the persona take precedent over the music?
Toronto-based band Alvvays may be considered the perfect exception in this situation, exemplifying illustrious on-stage visuals complementing–not taking away from–the equally compelling soundscape. At a sold-out show Thursday night at Brooklyn Steel, the five-piece played through two albums’ worth of sunny, fuzzy, feel-good dream pop in support of their sophomore release, Antisocialites (Polyvinyl) which came out earlier this year.
Introduced by a pixelated projection of the group’s name on the backdrop, the band kickstarted the set with the song “Saved By A Waif.” The track features disjointed introductory instrumentals followed by singer and rhythm guitarist Molly Rankin’s signature glossy vocals. As the five-piece continued playing, the projections began varying and continued throughout the show, basking the band in waves of pinks, blues and yellows.
The set continued with fan favorites “Adult Diversion”–a single that launched the band into stardom–which was featured on the band’s 2013 eponymous release. The buoyant, lick-heavy tune was followed by 2017 single “In Undertow,” an equally infectious track featuring strong vintage synth and bass sections. Alvvays highlighted their growth as musical artists by contrasting these two hits, notably within their songwriting and sound dynamics.
Gitchy, static-driven visuals began to encapsulate the screen during fast-paced tracks “Plimsoll Punks”, “Lollipop (Ode To Jim)” and “Hey,” while the softer, dreamier cuts were met with muted blue and pink tones washing over the musicians.
“May we get a little romantic?” Rankin asked playfully before placing her guitar down and taking hold of solely the microphone for the psychedelic “Forget About Life.”
The indie pop outfit concluded their set with three final hits, two of which were featured on their debut (“Party Police”, “Archie, Marry Me”, as well as “Dreams Tonite,” which was featured on Antisocialites). While their set only spanned an hour and fifteen minutes, the Canadian collective played through more than ninety percent of their discography, which only consists of two studio releases.
It is an absolutely enthralling experience when a band manages to incorporate complementary visuals within their live shows without taking away from the music, and Alvvays does just that. For now, one can only hope that they continue to put up such evocative displays and release honest female-driven dream pop.