REVIEW: Alvvays - "Alvvays"

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Alvvays - Alvvays
Record Label: Polyvinyl 
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Indie pop needs a new face. A few years ago, I would have sworn it to be Avi Buffalo, a group that seemed to flame out as soon as it got going. Listening to Alvvays, the self-titled debut of Toronto-based five-piece Alvvays, I was taken back to my first experience hearing Avi Buffalo's singles and struck with by how much I've missed the light-hearted melodies of musicians who seem to be trying to cover up internal fears. Alvvays sounds like a less-pretentious version of their Canadian brethren Stars, eschewing hyper-literarcy for a kind of naive sentimentality without relegating itself to twee fascinations with broken hearts.

The record opens with a thudding rhythm measure before a guitar line that seems to jangle and distort at the same time leads to Molly Rankin's vocals. On this track, "Adult Diversion" what seems like a cookie cutter structure warps into a keyboard-lead bridge before coming back to the a minimal guitar line as Rankin's vocals echo around and the band finally rejoins.


As a five-piece, the band never seems to be at a loss for sounds to accent and alter their tunes. "Red Planet," the record's closer, is the band at it's most minimal, yet it's still deeply textured with synths crashing into percussion and vice versa. Equally as exemplary as the instrumentation are Rankin's vocals whose delivery seems as off-the-cuff as it does lackadaisical. She always seems to be a half-beat behind and yet this is right on time. In the chorus of "Party Police," she intones a line at once melodic and disaffected: "You don't have to leave / You can just stay here with me / Forget about the party police / We can find comfort in debauchery." A slight revision in the melody of this line in the final chorus when Rankin pops her vocals up to another line is microcosmic of what the band does with such aplomb--right when you think that you've gotten the pattern, they shift it keeping you in the melody and opening musical possibilities at the same time.

"You've expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony" begins the single from Alvvays "Marry Me, Archie." The sentiment behind the song -- loving someone who you know can't (or won't) love you back -- is an old musical and literary theme. This incarnation of it, like much of the work that Alvvays does, seems to harken back to the past while putting a new spin on tried and true emotions. It's hard not to think of the vocals of Isobel Campbell or the sardonic lyrics of the Moldy Peaches as the album unfolds. Both these artists managed to capture a moment and in many ways Alvvays feels perched between the sincerity of Belle and Sebastian and the tongue-in-cheek of Kimya Dawson. Musically and lyrically astute, Alvvays sounds like what was great about indie pop bands of the past smart enough to make you hear an emotion anew. 

4 comments:

  1. Can't stop playing this record. Totally came out of left field and has me blindsided. Perfectly framed up, Hank. Polyvinyl is sitting in the driver's seat in putting out awesome debuts records in 2014. Glad to see WLFY promote this one.

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