From the very start of “Runaway,” the opening track on Varsity’s third album Fine Forever, it’s clear that the Chicago quintet has morphed into something new. While still working in indie-pop tradition that recalls groups like Fleetwood Mac, Rilo Kiley, and Alvvays, the band has taken the recognizable pieces of their sound and reached across sonic boundaries to reframe the genre in their own image.
Varsity have built an impressive catalog in a relatively short period of time, and with their 2015 self-titled debut, 2018’s Parallel Person, and a run of singles collected on 2019’s The Basement Takes all under their belt, the band sought a new approach for their third full-length. To record Fine Forever, vocalist/keyboardist Stef Smith, guitarists Dylan Weschler and Patrick Stanton, bassist Paul Stolz, and drummer Jake Stolz, put their trust in producer Ben Lumsdaine as if he were the band's sixth member. “Ben really helped free our minds and let us focus on playing music,” says bassist Paul Stolz, and the proof is in the final product. Between Lumsdaine’s encouragement and their own willingness to leave behind their music comfort zones, Varsity sound just as confident on the album’s crisp guitar pop (the rousing title track or shimmering jangle of “Shaking Hands”) as they do on its more exploratory cuts (the sprawling “Memphis Group” or the instrumental interlude “Surfin’ Milwaukee”). “Going into it, we just knew ourselves so much better as a band and as a working, collaborative unit than we ever have before. We played these songs so much, they were just in our veins,” says Weschler, who notes that they’d spent nearly three years working on album closer “Sicko World” until it felt totally right. It’s that collective effort that allows Fine Forever to feel deeply considered while still remaining totally and unpredictably human.
Vinyl includes digital download.