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Alvvays – Self-Titled – Album Review

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AlvvaysAlvvays – Self-Titled – Album Review

By Eric Murphy

When Alvvay’s breakout single “Archie, Marry Me” floated out of my radio for the first time last summer, I was sure I had heard it before. In fact, almost every song on the band’s debut album is so nostalgic and relentlessly catchy that the disc feels like an old favourite the second you turn it on.

Also titled Alvvays (pronounced always), the album draws more on its creators’ East Coast roots than their Toronto home base. Lines like “take me sailing out on the Atlantic” contribute to this ocean feel as much as the album’s overarching lo-fi, surf-pop aesthetic. The five-member band is voiced by Molly Rankin, offspring of Juno Award wining band The Rankin Family, who have been playing Celtic music in Nova Scotia since 1989. Her dreamy vocals are backed up by Alec O’Hanley, former guitarist for PEI’s Two Hours Traffic.

After spending almost a year floating around, Alvvays was officially launched by Royal Mountain Records July 21, 2014. By August 5 it was at the top of American College charts and it has since been nominated for the “Breakout Group of the Year” award at this year’s Juno’s. After you have spent a few minutes listening to the album, it is easy to see where all this buzz is coming from.

Throughout, Rankin’s vocals are softened to a dreamlike and occasionally haunting quality. The lead guitar and drums stay simple and palatable, but the rhythm guitar and keyboard keep the music feeling nice and full. In any song you can let your ears focus on just one instrument and you will always find something nice to latch onto.

The album starts upbeat with smile-inducing singles “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me.” Things get a little heavier and more electronic halfway through with “Party Police” and “Dives,” but even at their darkest Alvvays sound like Sonic Youth’s optimistic younger sister. Although the middle section adds some variety to the album, Alvvays does start to sound a bit repetitive by the fourth song, then again on the second last.

The band’s lyrics are distinctly millennial, with “Archie, Marry Me” discussing the crunch many 20-somethings feel to tie the knot after they’re finished school. The song even features the line “you’ve student loans to pay and will not risk the alimony.” A later track, “Ones Who Love You,” discusses that shaky feeling you get when, diploma in hand, you’re expecting life to begin. As Rankin sings: “When the wheels come off, I’ll be an astronaut, I will be lost in space.”

These sort of lyrics are appropriate for a band that’s just taking off themselves. Right now Alvvays are selling out shows across Europe and we won’t be seeing them play on North American shores until late March. With this kind of success, it is safe to say Alvvays are already in space, but they look far from lost.

The Good: Standouts like “Archie, Marry Me” are irresistible, Alvvays manage to create a sound that’s both fresh and familiar as a favourite old sweater. Molly Rankin’s ice-cream smooth voice meshes with the synth perfectly.

The Bad: When listened to as a whole, the album does get repetitive. This makes otherwise great songs like “Next of Kin” and “Atop a Cake” seem forgettable.

The Ugly: Their name. It’s hard to see the two Vs and not want to call the band “All-vays.” Although they’d originally used a W, there’s already a band called Always in the UK, Alvvays it is.

Eric Murphy
eric.murphy.j@gmail.com

THE SCENE

Check out an announcement article and Ottawa show review we published.


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