Alvvays self-titled review

ALVVAYS“Awkward beach-pop” lends itself to being a somewhat strange genre, but that’s precisely what the Toronto quintet have managed to create. Lyrics filled with doubt and questioning the correctness of social interaction strangely match up to windows-down road trip style music – a captivating combination.

Echoing guitars and percussion welcome the album with Adult Diversion, creating a remarkably open sound and the general high pitch of the track infiltrates happiness into the song. It’s only when you focus on the dubious lyrics, “if I should fall // act as those it never happened” and “is it a good time // or is it highly inappropriate?”, that you realise the slightly dead pan vocals are not simply there for decoration and contrast; the lyricism is much darker than anticipated. Despite the soft birdsong and instrumental that opens Archie, Marry Me, the selfsame sense of crushing foreboding prevails in the lyrics. The track is easily interpreted to be something of a better mood though – the soaring vocals that declare “hey, hey, marry me, Archie”, keep the song buoyant enough for it to keep its beach-pop style.

Ones Who Love You is the first to open with a noticeable sombre tone, deeper vocals becoming the concentration as softer instrumental takes a firm rhythm and backseat. A definite sense of loneliness is prominent, but the explicit discomfort is only noticeable when the colourful instrumental isn’t taken into account. Fourth track, Next Of Kin, highlights another prominent feature of this album; the manner in which the lyrics are directed at people, rather than simply being about them. This track does little to disguise the longing that fills the vocal work, and yet the lyrics make the whole ordeal seem more poetic; “I left my heart in the river”.

Personal favourite off the album comes from the fifth track, Party Police. This holds more attention to the lyrics, even those more grim; “when everyday’s a hurricane / you know there’s something wrong”. The high and melodic chorus overpowers the instrumental, and as it becomes the focus of the track the music gives way to create a mood of oppressive loneliness, before the instrumental picks up again to finish the track. The smooth transition between this and The Agency Group makes them sound to be one song; what sets them apart is how the music and vocals mirror each other in their rise and fall in the sixth track. No change in vocal pitch goes unnoticed, and the tight sound this creates is striking.

Dives holds one of the most melancholy openers, which builds up very throughout the track. The velvety vocals blend with the simplistic music for one of the more chilled-out songs of the album, with the percussion lingering a little while longer to leave a lasting impression. Guitars open Atop A Cake, slowly built up with percussion and vocals, before they all drop away to focus the lines “if everything you said was true // Why would I disagree? // How can I lose control?”. As the music builds up around the vocals again, the simple fade away instills a sense of calm – again, the idea of summer is fore-fronted. The closing track, Red Planet, is one bound to instill a sense of calm in you – despite its generally sad tone, they is a hint of curiosity that lifts the track, and would work (as every track on the album would) as a beach anthem.

This is not a straightforward album; the music and lyrics hold different messages, but if you can listen to and enjoy both sides of it, it’ll definitely be one to stick in your memory.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed