Summer may be winding down, but luckily it’s not over quite yet; there are still a couple more weekends for you to enjoy some sunshine and relaxation before the horrors of autumn begin. However, you might be getting a little annoyed with listening to the same Summer Mix playlist on your iTunes–a perfectly understandable concern. To that end, it is worth checking out the self-titled debut of the sunny beach-pop band Alvvays.
(Ed. note: from what I’ve read about the band, despite the odd spelling, the name is still pronounced “Always”)
There have been several bands that have mined this vein of indie rock in recent years, most notably DIIV and Real Estate; the trademarked trebly guitars laced with reverb, the simplistic percussion, and the general laid-back vibe are all present on the album. Even though there are many strong similarities between these groups, the upbeat disposition of many of the songs as well as the unique vocals of Molly Rankin help distinguish the group from its peers. Whereas Real Estate would be perfect for spending the day relaxing by the ocean, Alvvays fits better as the soundtrack to help get you amped on the car ride to the beach.
The album begins with a 1-2 punch of “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me”, and it’s easy to see why these two songs were the first singles. “Adult Diversion” is propelled by a bouncy arpeggiated guitar part and airy vocals, a combination where one can note the apt comparisons to DIIV, but the true engine is the driving bassline, which provides both momentum and a great counterpoint. “Archie, Marry Me” is a a great pop song with a big chorus, with a style that recalls the Dum Dum Girls and their attempts to capture that 60’s nostalgia haze. While it’s easy to get caught up in the big sweeping hooks, the best part of the song is actually the feedback-drenched lead guitar in the second verse that provides a necessary subtle edge to the gauzy production.
The album is not without its problems, as the momentum begins to sag around the middle with “The Agency Group” and “Dives”. The latter is actually a well-done ballad with enough unique touches that are promising for the future, but within the context of the album it just ends up being a drag. Alvvays is able to avoid falling off the rails with the energetic “Atop A Cake” and its extremely catchy chorus, which should have you singing “How can I lose control when you’re driving from the backseat” long after you’ve finished listening to the album. Other highlights include “Ones Who Love You”, a great slow number that gradually builds into a shocking climax of “You can’t feel your fucking face” before breaking back down once again, and the midtempo song “Party Police”, which is built around an intriguing minor-key guitar lick and finds Rankin hitting an unexpected high note like Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries or Sinéad O’Connor.
When Alvvays is hitting on all cylinders, it’s a fun ride; unfortunately, there are a few too many moments when it stalls. That said, it’s a solid debut that can easily find a place in any future Summer Mix, and the band displays enough talent that it’s worth watching what they do in the future.