Alvvays – Blue Rev: Review

Alvvays has amassed an intriguing identity that balances the apropos of pop rock with extensive string arrangements that boast starry, spacey, synth-fueled jams that resonate with the soul. As such, they’re weaving this unique blend with characteristics of pop and rock and delivering a vibrant and expansive release in Blue Rev. Their third album has poignant themes over elegant instrumentations that keeps you enthralled, albeit with some minor issues. However, these minor issues don’t take away from this great leap forward in sound and style– Molly Rankin’s vocals and slick rhythmic playing eloquently beneath the other empathetic playing from her fellow bandmates. It keeps you engaged and vibing throughout, layering these colorful tracks that speak further to an evergrowing synergy, despite some turnarounds that don’t sidetrack where they’ve grown from since their last album, Antisocialites, five years ago.

What struck me quickly about Blue Rev is the jubilance that rides through on crisp sonic waves–an emotional coaster where the production is grand and varied. Sometimes you get more indie rock-fueled tracks like “Pharmacist” and “Pressed,” and other times, you’re getting more shoegazey with tracks like “Easy On Your Own?” and “Bored In Bristol;” what’s pertinent is the varying sonic subtexts from its hard-hitting bangers. They use pedal effects, computerized distortions, and more to implement psychedelic undertones to round out the instrumentation with personality–it exhibits that with how easily it reels you. “Easy On Your Own?” and “Very Online Guy” are two tracks that embody that shoegaze aesthetic beautifully, making them stand out significantly, like some of their songs with indie rock sensibilities. Alvvays are going through styles like someone changing wardrobes ten times before heading out into the world for the day; however, of its 14 fits, or songs, on the album, it contains many standouts like the previously mentioned and others that communicate fun within themes of loneliness, love, amongst others. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t all this one acquiescing force you can get lost in since some songs get weakened due to its standard approach to some instrumentations, like the two-dimensional and summery “Velveteen.” It benefits from clever, illustrious songwriting, but the sound isn’t always accompanying the vocal’s oomph. There is a cadence in Rankin’s voice; it offers a clean listen that lets you coast through and grip the essence of Alvvays lyrical depth, despite some of its less-than-appealing instrumentations, like on “Belinda Says.” It’s centered on rudimentary percussion, incorporating lesser bass grooves, leaving you less fulfilled, despite having this spiritual guidance influenced by The Go-Gos. The music speaks closer to Molly Rankin and how she imbues these sonic anecdotes, but it doesn’t so powerfully. Like “Velveteen,” it’s one of two tracks that never acquiesced within its compact space, almost feeling a little empty despite the solid energy from the band.

So you’re there, listening to Blue Rev; you get this feeling that you’re there, front row listening to them perform vigorously, giving it this raw aesthetic that lets them spread their wings. Having gone through a few bandmates and replacements, it becomes a testament to Alvvays’ craft that there isn’t an absence or faulty delineation of a sonic identity as they stay headstrong and keep their jovial playing become part of their center-core. That fun can come from hearing these plucky strings building enthusiastically over each other. And with “Lottery Noises” and “Pomeranian Spinster” have these unique, contrasting tones molded by Molly Rankin’s potently emotive delivery. The former sees Rankins lamenting on a past relationship, relating his presence and sound to that of the lottery machine making noises, indicating she’s taking a gamble with luck. The latter sees a different tone as Rankin comes across with sheer confidence and vigor about how she may be perceived, singing, “I don’t wanna be nice/I don’t want your advice/On the run in my tights/I’m going to get what I want/I don’t care who it hurts.”

Written by Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley, what gets brought to the table are an array of unique stories with colorful depictions that mold their emotional deliveries into something grander than expected. Many are visually engaging, taking you through these dailies that offer layered duality to themes getting approached. “Tile By Tile” sees Rankin doing busy-body work, letting her mind wander to the time she dropped the L (love) word on a ride with someone with who she feels this affection, but it’s nonreciprocal. It leaves her feeling like she left a good thing slip and seeing her anxiety shift with specific actions, like when she sings, “Am I still giving off the wrong impression?/I shouldn’t have ever dialed you up,” in the outro. 

“After The Earthquake” plays with the idea of distinct reactions that may happen post-quake–as Molly Rankin told Stereogum, “the approach was based on this Murakami short story collection called After The Quake…The earthquake itself can trigger little epiphanies and make people realize that life is short and [people] make important decisions based on these natural disasters. I thought that it would be interesting to write a song about how there is this earthquake, there are all these different chaotic, really traumatic life events, but the thing that’s actually at the front and center of the song is what is happening with this deteriorating relationship.” It’s telling; the care getting brought to the record as they explore these tangible sounds that take you to a realm of musical harmony. It’s something you start to love as it loops, and the instrumentations begin to feel fresh like it’s the first time.

Blue Rev is an exquisite time from front to back–some few hiccups here and there that didn’t agree with the rest, but there is a consistency to the depth of Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley’s writing that keeps your ears glued at those moments. It left me with glee and enough to influence multiple spins, which I hope reflects with you as you go through this album a few times.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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