Alvvays

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2017

Today is April 17, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day (a few days later this year), we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.

10. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps; Fleet Foxes – The Crack-Up; Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers; Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory; Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy; Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry (7 plays)

It should come to no surprise for our readers the band who inspired our site’s name would crack our Top Ten with our return, though their low placement on the list may raise some eyebrows.  While their return has enough artistic merit to make it more than a simple cash-in on instant nostalgia, Cry Cry Cry lacked the standout songs that marked Wolf Parade’s previous work, with the album seeming to be more competent than anything.  Still, the one-two punch of Dan Boeckner’s “Artificial Life” and Spencer Krug’s “King of Piss and Paper” (reversed for the video) should alleviate the worries of any fans that the Canadian supergroup still has gas left in the tank.

I felt bad for the short people behind me

Wolf Parade, at the Crystal Ballroom

Tyler, the Creator bounced back from a couple of forgettable efforts with an ambitious album that recalls why fans were so impressed with the Odd Future crew back when “Yonkers” first hit, mixing bangers with surprisingly introspective tracks.  We’ll leave the discussion about the lyrical prowess of Vince Staples to others (they never really impressed us that much, but the words aren’t usually our focus), but the beats on Big Fish Theory were a goddamn revelation considering the malaise that seems to be spreading over modern hip-hop these days.  We’re not sure what gets the party going with the kids these days, but bump Vince’s latest on your headphones and you should be set for one heart-pumping adventure.

Much like Dinosaur Jr., another iconic alternative group, Godspeed has shown new life after their return from their prolonged hiatus.  However, as good as their recent albums have been, they seem to be following a similar arc where the third album doesn’t quite have the juice of its two predecessors.  That said, the climax of “Bosses Hang” is exactly what we need these days.

Phoebe is the newcomer to the party, and her delicate debut is perfect for late-night listens.

9. Dieg Cig – Swear I’m Good at This; The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (8 plays)

What can we say–we love duos.  The mix of the sugar-sweet vocals with the propulsive punk makes Diet Cig a welcome addition to the garage rock revival.  The War on Drugs exceeded our expectations; we had begun to get tired of the band’s style (and had read too many critiques of their sound), so we weren’t exactly pumped for their latest.  However, there are plenty of songs on Understanding which will make the band’s eventual Greatest Hits release.  That said, we pray that on the next album Adam Granduciel learns you can use drum patterns besides ones that hit on 2 and 4.

The War on Drugs, at the Crystal Ballroom

8. Alvvays – Antisocialites; Beck – Colors; LCD Soundsystem – American Dream; Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent (9 plays)

Alvvays went a bit darker with their follow-up to their self-titled debut, and added new textures to their indie-pop sound.  Beck finally released his often-teased follow-up to the Album of the Year winning Morning Phase, and while it seems the rest of the country wasn’t psyched for a return of “fun” Beck, we found this album plenty enjoyable.  Beck may have fussed over individual sounds endlessly before the release of Colors, but repeated listens prove it was well worth the effort.  LCD Soundsystem was another welcome return of indie rock royalty, and though it seems they may have stalled a bit creatively after their wonderful initial three album run, “Call the Police” was worth the price of admission in and of itself (though we wish they could have found a way to include the teaser single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” on the album).  Protomartyr further honed their sound of post-punk mixed with the ravings of an esoteric college professor.  Relatives was not as initially catchy as The Agent Intellect, so it may discourage new fans, but eventually it hooks your way into your brain–see how the line “She’s just trying to reach you” keeps repeating throughout and how it fits with the themes of the record.  The lyric from the Michigan band of “It’s been leaded by snider men to make profit from the poor” might be the best line from 2017, but it’s the following line I keep repeating in my head: “I don’t want to hear those vile trumpets anymore.”

Protomartyr, at the Doug Fir

7. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder; The National – Sleep Well Beast (10 plays)

Hug of Thunder might be the most consistent front-to-back record in the BSS catalog, with several songs that are just really damn uplifting.

Broken Social Scene, at the Crystal Ballroom

By contrast, Sleep Well Beast is a step down for The National, but they’ve been on fire since Alligator and you can’t expect them to maintain perfection forever.  The electronic flourishes to the album are a nice touch, and there are several standout songs that will be great additions to the average setlist.  Simply put, the album gets dinged only because it pales in comparison to their recent string of successes.

The National, at the Schnitz

6. Death From Above 1979 – Outrage! Is Now; Queens of the Stone Age – Villains; Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3 (11 plays)

Death From Above officially dropped the “1979” from their name, but it’s going to take us a while to get used to it.  However, we are thrilled that the return to form of The Physical World was no mere fluke, and we’re exceedingly pleased to see the band continue to evolve.  At first, it may seems the album dips in the middle, but after a few times through it becomes clear the forays into sludgier metal riffs are a welcome evolution for the duo (and will help save the stamina of a singing drummer).  Hell, see how easy they make metal look with the hard-hitting opener, “Nomad”.  We may overrate these guys compared to others, but honestly, we have no idea why “Freeze Me” wasn’t a bigger summer hit.

Death From Above, at the Roseland

It took a few times though to get on the same wavelength as QOTSA for their latest, with our initial impression being that a few of the better songs would have worked just fine as Eagles of Death Metal tracks instead.  But once we got lost in the sound and feel of the record, we began to appreciate it more.  Also, “Villains of Circumstance” will be remembered as one of their best ever.

Queens of the Stone Age, at the Hult Center

RTJ is in a strange position, because the schedule of their leak and official release had them straddling the line between 2016 and 2017 lists, but this feels like the right spot for them (if we included every single listen since its release, it would tie for the top spot).  RTJ3 isn’t as lean as its predecessors, but there’s plenty here that will leave listeners longing to hear the continuing saga of Jamie and Mikey.

Run the Jewels, at the Crystal Ballroom

5. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$; The xx – I See You (12 plays)

A couple of surprises make it into the top half of the list!  We were not impressed with Joey’s debut, but All-Amerikkan Bada$$ is an impressive step forward, effectively mixing groovy R&B and political hip-hop.

We thought The xx had already begun running out of creativity with the decent Coexist, but it turns out there is still juice left in their minimalist indie rock.  Who knew you could make introverted love songs so danceable?

4. Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (13 plays)

Big K.R.I.T.’s ambitious new record easily slides into the trinity of Wu-Tang Forever and All Eyez on Me on the list of greatest hip-hop double albums.  Though nominally split between his two personalities with the party anthem heavy “Big K.R.I.T.” and the introspective gospel-tinged “Justin Scott”, the album flows just fine as one long piece.  Hell, even the few skits on the album can be listened to more than once!

3. Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound; Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins; Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (14 plays)

Now here’s a triumvirate you would expect from us.  Japandroids got an early jump on everybody with a January release, which partially explains their high ranking on this list, though we don’t want you to put too much in that disclaimer.  Wild Heart of Life is a half-brilliant, half-decent album, which explains our reluctance to fully commit to any direction in our assessment.  The title track opener is an all-time great for the band, and the run from “Midnight to Morning”, “No Known Drink or Drug”, and “In a Body Like a Grave” finish the album on a rousing note.  It’s the middle songs which sag, though we appreciate them as experimental forays necessary for a duo who wish to have a long career.

Japandroids, at Revolution Hall

Grizzly Bear once again returns with an album that sounds great on headphones, begging for you to pick out more and more details with each listen, all in a style that’s perfect for either driving in the car or listening late at night.

Grizzly Bear, at the Roseland

Cloud Nothings made the most consistently brilliant punk record of the year, and goddammit I hope that band keeps moving on to bigger and better things.

Cloud Nothings, at the Doug Fir

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.; Spoon – Hot Thoughts (16 plays)

After the overflowing To Pimp a Butterfly, a record that placed a lot of its emphasis on being a complete album, it seemed Kendrick was coming back with a series of hard-hitting singles–“Humble.” and “DNA.” were huge, aggressive tracks which got everybody fired up for the release.  The initial impression of DAMN. as a series of singles eventually proved to be incorrect, as Kendrick revealed more of the thought process behind the album.  For us, though, the switch was flipped when the “Collector’s Edition” was released, which flipped the tracklisting from back-to-front.  All of a sudden, the album seemed to have a much better flow, and its themes became more readily apparent.

What more can be said about Spoon?  The band is incapable of releasing a less-than-great album at this point, and Hot Thoughts shows off a fun side that had been hiding in the background for a few years at this point.  Britt and the guys walk the tightrope of staying true to their “sound” while not repeating themselves–for example, the funky “Can I Sit Next To You” fits right alongside their early hit “I Turn My Camera On” without it being a rehash.

Spoon, at the McDonald Theater

We love the whole album, but we’re going to keep the somber “I Ain’t the One” and the relevant-to-these-times “Tear It Down” on repeat.

1. Slowdive – Slowdive (17 plays)

The return of My Bloody Valentine may have inspired more ink, but we appreciated the return of the other titans of shoegaze more.  Slowdive fits right in next to Souvlaki and Just for a Day, but doesn’t feel like a mere revival of their early-90’s peak.  The music is as gorgeous as ever, venturing from the delicate haunting vocals in the ballads to the big rush of guitars in the epics.

Slowdive, at the Crystal Ballroom

We’re not sure if we’ll look back in ten years and definitively say we made the right choice on the number one album of 2017, but we’re confident in saying we’ll still love the hell out of this album.

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Project Pabst 2015 Day 2 Recap

The first day of Project Pabst had a better lineup, but the second day offered just enough that made spending a second day in the heat a worthwhile proposition.  At least it never got as hot as it did the previous day, though there was little to no escape from the sun, aside from the odd bit of shade and the PBRcade.  Still, water refills were once again free, even if that did not make up for the fact the organizers made no adjustments overnight.

Alvvays delivered the most season-specific music

Alvvays delivered the most season-appropriate music

If there is one thing you can count on when you travel in Oregon, it is that random traffic jams will occur without any reason.  A massive slowdown on I-5 added another hour to our travel time, forcing us to miss the majority of Alvvays’s set, an unfortunate result considering we were really excited to see how one of our favorite new artists from 2014 performed live.  However, we can authoritatively state that, from what little we heard, Alvvays’s bouncy, shimmery pop-rock was a perfect soundtrack to a sunny outdoor festival.  Though attendance was lagging at this point in the day, at least there were a devoted few that sang along to closer “Archie, Marry Me”.

Aimee Man and Ted Leo had easily the best stage banter of the festival

Aimee Man and Ted Leo had easily the best stage banter of the festival

Though I have been a fan of Ted Leo for years, I had yet to give his collaboration with Aimee Mann a shot.  However, The Both won me over with their ripping set, with Aimee and Ted displaying a tight chemistry that was only matched by El-P and Killer Mike.  The music was an intriguing mix of the two styles, though I tended to prefer the moments when Ted would kick it up a notch with flashy-but-efficient guitar solos.  The stage banter between the two was a definite highlight, including a memorable bit where Aimee poked fun at Ted’s love of all things Tolkien, with Ted responding by totally owning it and singing an impromptu version of “Frodo of the Nine Fingers”.  Also, for the record, Ted can change a broken guitar string faster than any performer that I have ever seen.

This was the act the crowd appreciated the most

This was the act the crowd appreciated the most

Passion Pit generated the best crowd response of the day, but my reaction to the group has always been the embodiment of the shrug emoji.

Buzzcocks still going steady

Buzzcocks still going steady

Since I spent several years listening to Singles Going Steady, a truly essential compilation for anyone who has ever dabbled in punk rock, the Buzzcocks were the “living legends” reunion I was looking forward to seeing the most at Project Pabst.  Judging by the packed backstage area, I was certainly not alone in this sentiment, as one could easily see other performers like Ted Leo singing along to the words of some of their classic hits like “Why Can’t I Touch It”, “What Do I Get?”,  and “Noise Annoys”.  The group tore through their discography at breakneck speed, with guitarist Steve Diggle constantly asking the sound mixer to crank up the volume.  Just hearing “Ever Fallen In Love” and “Orgasm Addict” live made Day 2 worthwhile in and of itself.

Weezer finished off Project Pabst with some flair.

Weezer finished off Project Pabst with some flair.

There are few bands with whom I have more of a love/hate relationship than Weezer, and considering my age it should be easy to spot exactly where that dividing line occurs in the band’s catalog.  I think the surest example of how people my age should not be lumped into the catch-all “millenial” generation is that we would never cheer as loudly for “Back to the Shack” as we would for “My Name Is Jonas” or “The Good Life”.  I ended up sticking around longer than I anticipated since the group did a good job of mixing in some of their genuinely great songs with their later hits that played well to certain segments of the crowd, and I can certainly admired the well-oiled machine that Weezer the performance act has become.

Project Pabst was a solid success this go-around, but hopefully they will learn from a few of their mistakes from this edition as they set up plans for next year.  Hopefully they can create a lineup as exciting and varied as the first two editions.

Random Notes

Number of free water refills: 2

Number of beards longer than mine: 1

Number of comments on my shirt (Dinosaur Jr. Green Mind cover): 2, including a “Best Shit EVER!”

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2014

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation celebrates Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund/gives them an added checklist when they head out to their local record stores this weekend for Record Store Day.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.  Also, we have reviews for all of these albums, so for those of you seeking a more detailed analysis all you need to do is click the appropriate tag above.

10. Alvvays – Alvvays; Aphex Twin – Syro; Nothing – Guilty of Everything; Real Estate – Atlas (8 plays)

Alvvays and Nothing edge themselves onto the list with fantastic debut albums, the former being a sublime beach-pop record and the latter finding an intriguing mix between shoegaze and metal.  Real Estate’s latest would make a great companion album to the Alvvays record on any future trip to the coast, with the band further refining their laid-back, easy-going vibe with some of their most tightly-constructed songs of their career, like “Talking Backwards” and “Crimes”.  The only reason why Aphex Twin’s fantastic comeback effort is so low on the list is that we in general do not spend much time listening to electronica; otherwise, it would have ended up much higher on our list.

9. Beck – Morning Phase; Ought – More Than Any Other Day; Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal; Solids – Blame Confusion (9 plays)

We never grew to love Sunbathing Animal in the same way that we did Light Up Gold, so its inclusion on the list is mainly due to our insistence on trying to gain a greater appreciation through repeated listens; that said, it did have its moments, like “Dear Ramona” and “Instant Disassembly”, that we would love to hear the next time they roll through the Northwest.  Ought’s debut album is the perfect example of why we delay the publication of our list, since their fascinating debut did not come onto our radar until after we saw it on another year-end list, and it soon became one of our favorites with its intriguing take on garage rock and post-punk.  We jumped in early on the Solids bandwagon, and were pleased to see that the duo’s fuzz-rock had some staying power over the course of the year.  And we hope that Beck is as proud of his showing on our list as he is of the Grammy that he got for his gorgeous new album.

8. The Antlers – Familiars; Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else; Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE (10 plays)

Cymbals Eat Guitars surprised a lot of people with the leap forward that they took on LOSE, an ambitious, anthemic guitar rock masterpiece.  Cloud Nothings somehow came back with an even rawer record than Attack on Memory, and in the process became more of a cohesive group, with the furious drumming being a noteworthy highlight.  As for The Antlers, this is becoming old hat for them, because they once again delivered an incredible record, this time meditating on reconciling the internal struggle, dressed up in hauntingly gorgeous hooks.

7. Fucked Up – Glass Boys; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There? (11 plays)

We may have been in the minority with our disappointment in David Comes to Life, but Fucked Up more than made up for it with the punchy Glass Boys.  As for Sharon Van Etten, she continues to find the perfect balance between the pain and sadness of her lyrics and the beauty of her music.

6. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (13 plays)

Though there is probably a sizable contingent of people who are tired of The Black Keys at this point, we are not in that subset.  Turn Blue was the right step after the arena-rock of El Camino, and we love it when they collaborate with Danger Mouse.  Also, the guitar solos in “The Weight of Love” were probably the year’s best.

5. Interpol – El Pintor; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (14 plays)

After their disappointing self-titled album and the polarizing Our Love to Admire, Interpol gave itself a needed shot in the arm with El Pintor.  Though on paper it seems that dropping the band’s “secret weapon” Carlos D. was a bad idea, Paul Banks comfortably assumed those duties and seemed to reinvigorate the rest of the band with their strongest effort since Antics.  Run The Jewels proved that sequels can improve upon the originals, with Killer Mike throwing down some of the best verses of his career.


4. TV on the Radio – Seeds; The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream (15 plays)

A lot of critics seemed to have slept on Seeds, but any visit to see TV on the Radio on their latest tour should quiet any doubts that people had about the band.  It is an album about finding strength through loss, and the band crafted some of its best songs in the wake of the loss of bass player Gerard Smith.  The War on Drugs improved upon their initial breakthrough Slave Ambient by shaping their soundscapes into more cohesive “songs”, but the album is still a delight to listen to with the headphones cranked up to listen to all the different sonic details.


3. Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours; Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation!; Spoon – They Want My Soul (17 plays)

It is fitting that two of the solo albums from one of our favorite bands would end up in a tie; though we mourn the apparent loss of The Walkmen, we should rejoice that we have been blessed with multiple excellent albums already.  Each captured distinct parts of their previous band’s sound–Hamilton’s penchant for vintage sounds, Peter with the charming raggedness of their music.  Spoon once again proved that they are the most consistently brilliant band in indie rock for the past 15 years, as They Want My Soul effectively captures the band’s past sound as well as finds new ways to innovate, with songs like “New York Kiss” and “Outlier”.


2. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits (19 plays)

This is perhaps the best example of the peculiarities of The Process, as the placement of Tomorrow’s Hits was partially inflated by just how much fun it is to drive around playing this record.  The band looked backwards for inspiration, re-configuring the sound of a bar band from the 70’s to create one of the most entertaining records of the year.  The Men have been busy throughout their career, releasing five records and five years, so we should probably be expecting a sixth record soon.


1. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World (23 plays)

We have been in love with this album since the second we heard the opening notes of “Trainwreck 1979”.  Death From Above 1979 made the most of the ten years off since their debut, finding the perfect balance between recreating the magic of their early work while moving ahead into new and exciting directions.  You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine still holds up hundreds of years later, and The Physical World looks like it will repeat the same feat.  The band still has the same ferocious energy as when they first burst on the scene, but it is clear that both Sebastien and Jesse have improved as musicians, finding new ways to create original music through the simple tools of bass and drums (with the occasional synth).  Hopefully we do not have to wait another ten years for the next step.

Feats of Strength: Alvvays

Unlike a lot of listeners, lyrics have usually been at most a secondary concern for me.  That’s not to say that lyrics are completely irrelevant or unimportant, but that they are normally rather low on my priorities list when assessing the merits of a particular song or evaluating the work of an artist.  It’s only after the first few listens that I pay attention to the lyrics; melody, rhythm, instrumentation, and interaction between all the parts are all more pressing concerns in my mind.  If a band succeeds with those elements, I tend to view good lyrics as a bonus.  It also helps to have really low expectations for lyrics in general–there’s way too much information to convey in a restricted manner, so if everything doesn’t work out perfectly on the page, it’s probably best to let it slide.

Despite this predisposition, sometimes lyrics can make an immediate impression even on the first listen.  It’s not a big deal if a chorus gets stuck in my head or that I remember an opening line, but the more noteworthy cases are when it’s a throwaway lyric in a middle verse that catches my attention.  Probably the best personal example I can think of is the line “My old portrait heads of Gertrude Stein” from the Olivia Tremor Control’s “Define A Transparent Dream”–it’s a phrase that stuck out immediately the first time I heard it, and after numerous subsequent listens to Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle I was still able to pick out and enjoy that particular lyric, even without full knowledge of its context.  It was a long time before I even knew the name of the song or where it appeared on the album, but sure enough every single time the song played I could jump in and sing along at that moment.

This phenomenon occurred when I listen to the self-titled debut from Alvvays, and something that was briefly mentioned in our review.  In an otherwise rather weak year for newcomers, Alvvays stood out from most with its bouncy melodies and sun-soaked atmosphere, with sugar-sweet hooks that never dipped into saccharine territory.  The album created a compelling marriage between the retro-revival of 60’s garage pop with the gorgeous arpeggiated guitar melodies of contemporaries like Beach House, and was successful in conveying a soothing sense of calm throughout.

But within the general good vibes, there was one lyric that poked through, and it successfully stuck in my mind precisely because of the way it was set up by the previous songs.  The album begins with the playful “Adult Diversion” before smoothly transitioning to the soaring “Archie, Marry Me”, which sets the mood for the rest of the album.  “Ones Who Love You” seems to follow in much the same manner, delivering a slight variation of the breezy summer music that we previously heard.  Then the third verse comes, and it shocks you with the final line “You can’t feel your fucking face.”  This sudden use of profanity from out of nowhere immediately makes the listener reconsider the meaning of the rest of the song, inspiring wonder as to what had been hidden under the surface this whole time.

The rest of the album more or less follows the template of the first two songs, with their wistful nostalgic tones, which makes the “you can’t feel your fucking face” lyric stick out even more and gives the line even more power.  It’s strange to praise a writer merely for using the f-word, but this is proof that when it is strategically deployed that it can have a powerful effect on the listener.  It knocks listeners out of their comfort zones and forces them to reassess their take on the material, even if this wasn’t the intention of the band.

That said, even after going back and searching for meaning in the lyrics of “Ones Who Love You,” I have no idea what the song is about, but rest assured every time I hear it I’ll be singing along with that line.

Review: Alvvays – Alvvays

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.