Final Rating: 8.3/10
I’ve always said you cannot go wrong with the sounds of the 60’s. Even the lackluster material from this era was charming, innocent, joyful and uplifting. Channeling that same aura is difficult, because that same optimism isn’t easy to feign. The appropriately named band Alvvays (pronounced always, but just with what looks like a wider, prolonged ‘w’ put together by two ‘v’s) and their appropriately named self titled album are an indication that some things within pop music will forever work. I don’t mean specific melodies or even certain tropes, because then that would instill a lack of creativity. Instead, Alvvays don’t simply pay tribute but focus on expanding on what worked during the dawn of contemporary pop and how it can work now. With girl group vocals, dream pop rhythms and shoegaze guitars, Alvvays may be walking on ground already explored, but they do so with heavier shoes and deeper footprints.
Alvvays have managed to access their album’s potential not just melodically but sonically as well. With their layered guitars actually adding something to the music, and not just being loud for the sake of being loud, they’ve pulled off getting into the dream pop club with flying colours. What helps them get elected club president this term around is their attention to detail within every song. Next of Kin has a number of chords that fall into one another that serve a higher purpose than just supplying a rhythm for the lead guitar lines (these lead lines are highly infectious and are note worthy, too). This kind of mentality rings true in all of the songs on the album, where any riff is more than just a catchy precession of notes: Every vocal melody, drum line, bass catalyst and guitar wail tries a little something different. Party Police is anything but an arrest of joy, with a guitar line that tosses in a surprise alternatively-picked resolution each time it completes, and it’s as effective as it was the first time you hear it.
Kerri MacLellan and Molly Rankin’s voices harmonize stunningly, not like a duet of people on the same wavelength but instead like a single person confirming what their mind is thinking out loud. The album’s flow shares this same kind of unity, where some songs will actually flow into one another. Alvvays’ self titled debut doesn’t feel like an album that’s a stream of consciousness, but it feels like a calculated understanding of a succession of emotions. Everything spills out of this album, but everything feels articulated in a very specific way. As a huge appreciator of both shoegaze and dream pop, it isn’t easy to make a bad album within either genre, yet it is easy to make a boring or bland one. Alvvays, at the start of their careers, have jumped this obstacle with an album that jangles like REM, soars like Slowdive and charms like The Shangri-Las. We had a fantastic opportunity to photograph Alvvays at NXNE 2014 at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. Even so, with such a promising start, I do not feel as though this is their zenith yet. With time to grow, I think we can expect great things from Alvvays: A group that seems like they will have a long stay in the indie limelight for quite some time.