Buzzband du jour, Toronto’s Alvvays are cementing themselves quickly as far more than just a sparked pan-flash. Decked out in fuzzy warmth, youthful themes and angelic ebullience, the spangly sprogs add many a fresh twist on the tried-‘n’-tested scuzz-pop; SoCal-ers, eat your hearts out. This is Canada’s genre now.
Luring us in to the lair of Alvvays have been two standout cuts: “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me”. The former’s a bouncing grenade of sun-saturated licks, the dulcet pipes of Molly Rankin (of The Rankin Family brood) and a snoozy shuffle of percussion. It’s a delirious summer smiler, sodden with smiley brass and as light as popcorn. The latter of the two preceding teasers, “Archie, Marry Me” – self-described as being about “‘in-the-cell-beside-you’ Bonnie and Clyde type of love” – is beautiful on all fronts. It’s melodic bliss, slipping easily down your earholes as if aural ambrosia (again, Rankin’s voice is simply perfect); it’s got a whole heap of heart, embodying a thousand teenage romances, burning too bright and flying like Icarus. It’s a timeless, modern classic.
For their eponymous debut, Alvvays have set themselves a mighty challenge. Leading with two immensely powerful, heavyweight tracks surely sets them up for a fall, right? It’s got to be an ordeal to try and follow-up those kinds of magic.
However, the peppy quintet have done it. Alvvays is a thrilling, often lethargic debut. It can be a catalyst for out-of-body relaxation with its deluge of frothy, bubble-bath timbres, or it can be a rousing, strangely communal record, enabling all-night gab session on the beach by campfires. It’s an album for friends, for lovers and for the self.
Somewhat more solemn compared to what we’ve already heard, “One Who Loves You” employs spaced-out Rankin-isms, squeedly-doodly guitars with a desert prog. bent and doo-wop ambiance. “Party Police” is unrepentent, spiteful and mischievous from the word go – not in an evil sense, but in a stroppy adolescent sense. There’s an endearing quality however, and the interweaving vocal and guitar hooks are sublime. “Atop A Cake” pogos with ‘80s new wave strands and bass/guitar lines that’d make Robert Smith well jel, the relative gloom of “Red Planet” (based upon Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #19) is a brilliant mood shift, creeping with suspicion and beady-eyed menace. Alvvays take the oft-trod hallmarks of fuzz-pop and that foamy guitar sound, and rend them into Gordian knots, U-turns and off-kilter reroutes. Not necessarily hugely experimental in the grand scheme of things, Alvvays do tread new ground within the genre-kin and like circles. Wonderful variations on an aging theme.
What Alvvays deliver with Alvvays is marvellous. Nigh ever strum, beat or delicate croon amazes. They don’t waste any time trying to find themselves or ease us into their world – we’re smack-bang in the middle of it from the get-go. They’re a confident troupe, going in their own direction without outside interference. It sounds distinctly them, and it sounds like they’re working on their own terms. Alvvays’ record is a hard-hitting, multi-faceted anthology of awesome, and sits pretty as one of 2014’s brightest debuts.