Alvvays – ‘Blue Rev’ review: a subtle but satisfying expansion

The Canadians’ third album is still identifiably Alvvays, but the hooks here are sweeter, the instrumentation brighter, the energy more palpable

Amid the relentless rat race of constant innovation, there is plenty of welcome space for bands who slowly, subtly expand on a signature sound piece by piece, album by album, without ripping up the rulebook. Since releasing their self-titled debut album eight years ago, Toronto’s Alvvays have been tweaking and perfecting their formula of sweet, delectable indie-pop through second album ‘Antisocialites’ (2017) and countless lauded live shows.

Released after half a decade away, the Canadians’ third album ‘Blue Rev’ is still identifiably Alvvays, but the hooks here are sweeter, the instrumentation brighter, the energy more palpable. Opening track ‘Pharmacist’ serves as the first – and most perfectly formed – example of this. While the track comes in a distinctly Alvvays-shaped package, Alec O’Hanley’s guitars swirl with more vengeance and energy than before, while Molly Rankin’s vocals have a newfound clarity as she sings of “getting out of neutral” and being on a “new track.” As if to emphasise these exciting new beginnings, the track then closes with an extravagant, ripping guitar solo.

Rankin frequently stretches herself lyrically and vocally across ‘Blue Rev’, finding new energies and themes to welcome into the Alvvays universe. On the romantically confused highlight ‘Velveteen’, she ends the track with a stunning, piercing vocal turn that bursts out emphatically. As well as ‘Blue Rev’ being more musically confident, Rankin’s lyrics also prove funnier and more witty than ever before. On standout ‘Very Online Guy’, she takes shots at an unnamed subject who “types his cool replies” and is “only one filter away” over the album’s most lo-fi production.

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Without digging deeper though, ‘Blue Rev’ is 14 songs of what Alvvays do so very well: layers of jangly guitars hit all the right notes and are backed up by the band’s metronomic rhythm section, featuring new members – drummer Sheridan Riley and bassist Abbey Blackwell – for this album. ‘After The Earthquake’ is a delectable, melodic indie-pop gem, with another highlight, ‘Pomeranian Spinster’, a scuzzy punk gem.

The writing and recording of ‘Blue Rev’ was disrupted and delayed when Rankin’s demos were burgled from her house and the band’s gear nearly flooded inside two days, but – as has become the norm with this band – patience proved a virtue and ‘Blue Rev’ stands as an ode to continuing to evolve despite obstacles, slowly honing and tweaking your craft, and keeping on moving. It’s another total delight from the Canadians.

Details

Label: Transgressive
Release date: October 7, 2022

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