Monday, January 04, 2021

Meet... Alvvays

Five-piece Canadian indie pop ensemble Alvvays (with two vs standing in for a w) are probably best known for their 2014 song, ‘Archie, Marry me’, a highlight of their eponymous first album, and a track which pokes fun at the expectations of twenty-somethings to marry and settle down. 

Often categorised as jangle pop – a genre featuring droning, chordal guitars – Alvvays are hard to place sonically. Molly Rankin’s lead vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Blondie’s Debbie Harry, but she cites her personal influences as Teenage Fanclub and Dolly Mixture – whom critics often use as reference points when situating the band’s sound– as well as The Smiths, Oasis, and even Celine Dion.

Their second studio album Antisocialites (2017), winner of the 2018 Juno Award for Alt Album of the Year, featured dreampop-style melodies on ‘Dreams Tonite’ and ‘In Undertow’, tracks which flirt with floaty ‘80s synths, guided by Rankin’s lilting voice. The bands main lyricists are Rankin and guitarist Alec O’Hanley, whose lyrics build on the dream-space their music inhabits, with ‘Dreams Tonite’ fantasising about how ‘in fluorescent light / Antisocialites watch a wilting flower.’

Similarly, on ‘Plimsoll Punks’ Rankin sings fluffy metaphors of chipping away ‘your candy coating’ to find ‘just strawberry ice cream floating’. The softness of lyrics like these are punctuated with tactile imagery like that of ‘the seashell in my sandal / That’s slicing up my heel’. Alvvays’s music is pretty well characterised by this meeting point between hard and soft, with strong guitar licks battling it out with airier electronic Farfisa organs.

Their self-titled album, Alvvays (2014), shows few signs of the same kind of electronic influence, instead foregrounding guitar and percussion. Rankin’s vocals, too, seem more forceful, less fluid. The album, whilst different, is a triumphant first work, being listed by both Rolling Stone and Time Out as one of the top 50 albums of 2014. There are, however, fewer standout tracks than on Antisocialites, which is altogether a cleaner, more assured record.

Recommended tracks: ‘Archie, Marry Me’, ‘Dreams Tonite’

- Tallulah Roberts


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