The breezy guitars, midcentury beehive-indebted melodies and general aw shucks-ness of the flood of surf-gaze bands from the last few years are like summer—you’d have to be Dick Cheney in a particularly sour mood not to enjoy it. But even the most golden-haired surfer needs to eventually get out of the sand and go eat something, run in late to work, and ultimately cede that the days are getting shorter. Unless you’re all “tra-la-la,” which is fine, but not Alvvays.
Alvvays’ version of squinting ahead in the calendar includes a slight icy air (maybe because they’re from Toronto?) to their beachy vibes on this nine-song debut . Their fuzzy stuff has a solid pulsing groove throughout, and they shove in unexpected analog synth whizz-wirrs, especially effective in the opener, Adult Diversion. Singer Molly Rankin can, most notably in the single Marry Me, Archie, reach and raise up her ubiquitous chanteuse-in-training tra-la-las out of the fuzz-pop morass and approach a coy-croon that expresses real emotional neediness and vocal ambition. Most indie singers seem to pick only one of those options.
Of course she can creak into grade school talent show earnestness on the higher notes (Party Police, The Agency Group) that’s charming for a while, but is also a sound that’s starting to get stale in the indie rock world. The infantilization of indie rock could be a community college course by now, or at the least a topic for another review. At least she claims in Party Police, “We could find comfort in debauchery.” Overall though, there’s more comfort than debauchery on Alvvays.
With its swirling guitars and Rankin shifting into a meatier mode during the fevered Atop A Cake, it’s apparent this band is still getting their bearings, where they could quite easily fall into the practice of the usual pharm-fed boo-hooers or make like the greats and do stuff like try and play around like tomorrow might be their last day on earth. Alvvays’ dark shadows, as on One Who Loves You and the electro-waltz, Dives, suggest that thought crosses their mind on a semi-regular basis. But right when you think “Okay, I get it,” they add a couple salt shakes of distant twang simmering just ahead of the synths of the watery sound (Next Of Kin) and/or the drums quickly jumble and tumble, and… aw shucks, it is still summer after all. Go watch another lovely sunset. Those buzzkilling “back to school” sales are looming.