Summer jams meet jangly melancholy on the Toronto band's impressive debut
Canadian band Alvvays (pronounced Always) are more indie than you. The lenses in their glasses are real, they know who all the bands pictured on their Tumblr actually are, and they have made one of the most jangle-filled and impressive debut albums of 2014 so far. The band started as a solo project for Molly Rankin, the daughter of famous Celtic musician John Morris Rankin, who died in a road accident when Molly was just 12 years old. But Alvvays don’t focus on the morbid; instead they offer a diary-like insight into their lives. “Alcoholism, depression and parties and relationships seem to always exist in whatever I write,” Rankin said in a recent interview.
After picking up Molly’s best friend, keys player and childhood neighbour Kerri Maclellan plus bandmates Alec O’Hanley, Brian Murphy and Phil MacIsaac along the way, the Toronto group worked on their debut album with Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh and producer John Agnello as well as fellow Canadian Chad VanGaalen at his excellently named Yoko Eno studio in Calgary. Together they elicit the twinkly thrills of C86-era indie, The Magnetic Fields, Pavement or, if you prefer, Best Coast. The band Alvvays most often resemble, however, is 4AD’s Camera Obscura. ‘Archie, Marry Me’ is by far the best song on this album – a bona fide hit in waiting that could keep Hollywood’s latest manic pixie dream girl company in love scenes for evermore. It also sounds like Camera Obscura’s equally brilliant ‘French Navy’ played at the wrong speed. Alvvays are a lot of things, but original isn’t one of them.
However, nothing on this record fails to impress. It’s full of sun-bleached summer jams like ‘Adult Diversion’, a tale of obsessively following a loved one from afar, and the Phil Spector-esque ‘Party Police’. The spectral ‘Red Planet’ concludes the album with the sound of waves lapping against the shore, set against a woozy synthesizer as Rankin sings, “I waited out here for you, but that was just delusional.” It’s a stunning end to a great debut record laced with melancholy and beautiful moments.