Being a millennial is tough. It’s hard to find time to meet guys on the subway in between all the debauchery and debating whether it’s too late to go out. Somehow, Alvvays found time to write about all of these things for their debut self-titled album. Alvvays, pronounced “always” but far more search engine-friendly, is a Toronto-based band originally from Canada’s Maritimes and includes a descendant of the Rankin Family (who were Canadian folk superstars, in case you’ve never caught the Juno Awards). These 20-somethings have really hit on something with this album, combining interesting lyrics with fuzzy, jangly indie rock on the nine tracks.
The band fuses indie rock with a little surf rock and dream pop, mixing synth, pedal steel, distortion, and those not-trying-too-hard female vocals. It’s kind of like British indie music of the C86-era, only even more melancholy, distorted, and with pedal steel. The album opens strong with the shoegaze-ish “Adult Distraction,” with the focus going to the loud, fuzzy guitars over the sweet, harmonized vocals. “Party Police” opens with sad surf guitar and mixes with dark synth to create a moody song that mixes well with the unsure feelings in the lyrics. The vocals range from clear and pretty to a little rough and spoken on “Archie, Marry Me” in the most charming way. Singer Molly Rankin shows that she has the pipes for gorgeous, sweet delivery, but at times she rebels and lets it get less polished. A good example of those deadpan vocals is on the rebellious “Atop a Cake.” The vocals stay consistently pretty and clear on “Ones Who Love You,” where Rankin delivers the line, “You can’t fucking feel your face,” in the sweetest, prettiest way (turns out it is possible to make it sound nice).
The lyrics cover quite a range of topics pertaining to love. “Adult Distraction” is about spotting a hottie and planning out a future together, though one has to wonder, “How do I grow old with you when you don’t even notice when I pass you by on the subway?” The next song up is another catchy one called “Archie, Marry Me.” It’s a sweet song about wanting to skip all of the complicated stuff about weddings like invitations, flowers, and bread makers and just getting married with the simple signing of papers. “Next of Kin” is about a boyfriend drowning in a river–and the girlfriend doesn’t sound all that upset about it in this upbeat song. Another stand-out song is “Party Police,” which captures the anxiety of not knowing if a friend wants to take things to the next level. Debauchery is a big theme in the lyrics of a couple of songs, apparently this band is all about stirring up trouble. There’s also “Atop a Cake,” which rebels against the authority of someone trying to control this millennial’s life and wonders, “How can I lose control when you’re driving from the backseat?” There’s a lot of uncertainty, melancholia, and questions in the lyrics–it can be tough to be in your twenties.
Honestly, it was difficult to pick just one stand out song to give a sample of this album because each song pulled its own weight. The more I listen to the album trying to decide on the stand-out, the more I like it all. The lyrics are clever and really speak of being in your early 20s; the synth and pedal steel mix so well. “Archie, Marry Me,” “Next of Kin,” and “Party Police” are all definitely worth listening to, at the very least. Even if you’re past your days of insecure relationships, the lyrics will strike a chord and the catchy-yet-unhappy songs will stick with you.