After the single “Archie, Marry Me” made the rounds earlier this year, I was curious to hear more from the Toronto-based band Alvvays, and I accordingly awaited their eponymous debut album that was scheduled for a summer drop via Polyvinyl Records.
Like the nostalgic picture that graces the cover of Alvvays, the nine songs, grouped together, are wistful, looking ever backwards to the past for a chance at happiness. In a running time of thirty minutes, Alvvays gives the band’s audience the gift of feeling as though they have just personally undergone hours of unhealthy brooding after a relationship that’s gone bad way past its expiry date. Alvvays is the equivalent to having emotions thrown at you by a mentally unstable friend that needs to unload their worries and their fears onto someone anyone, who will listen. Exhausting for the soul, Alvvays, despite its dream pop front, is capable of crafting deviously depressing songs to mope around to.
Each member of Alvvays adds their own special ingredient to the overall sound that distinguishes the band as a throwback to 60s AM radio and 80s lo-fi jangle. Molly Rankin, as the front woman and vocalist, stands out especially so, with a voice that calls out from the speakers with individualistic expression. It’s a neat trick Rankin manages to pull off, conveying depth through girlish mewling and pawing after a partner who isn’t around anymore.
Nearly every song has that one line that’s sure to send tingles down the spine. It could be when Rankin appeals to her anti-marriage partner, “Hey-hey, Archie, marry me”; when she tries to hold off the inevitable, “you don’t have to leave. You could just stay here with me” (“Party Police”); or when she remembers, “but you whisper you don’t think of me that way” (“The Agency Group”). Rankin wrenches hearts with her coquettish droning.
That raw and rough ’round the edges sonic quality is helped with Alec O’Hanley’s guitar highlighting Rankin’s fuzzy drawl, while drummer Phil MacIsaac often plays with the most energetic beats. “Adult Diversion” is a summery mid-tempo delight, while “Dives” is a southern comfort lullaby with the guitar keeping match with Rankin’s serenading croon. “Next of Kin”, a macabre song of sorts, is a tongue-in-cheek story about a drowning lover.
Rankin is similar to other indie goddesses who can write lyrics, and sing them like it was the first time anyone ever sang about being dumped. Bethany Cosentino and Jenny Lewis come to mind, but unlike these indie fixtures, I’m much more blown away by the melodious pleasure of Rankin’s vocals more so than by the insight her words carry.
Alvvays’s debut is one of slumberous songs full of gloomy love content that will swirl your brains into a prepubescent fog of hormones.