[Polyvinyl / Transgressive; 2014]
Nostalgia-based music is far from a new thing. Every year 100s of bands release albums paying homage to the sounds of old, ranging from 60s psychedelia, 70s prog-rock, or 80s new wave. With their self-titled debut, Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) are just another one of these bands borrowing heavily from the past, but the difference with this Nova Scotia quintet from many others is the flawless craftsmanship displayed through every track on the album.
I’m not suggesting that what Alvvays have created is perfect. In fact, pristine musicianship and production would tarnish exactly what makes the album so great. Thanks to producer/genius Chad VanGaalen, the album’s rough, lo-fi exterior amplifies the warm and welcoming heart of the music. The songs are a refreshing mix of 60s pop and 80s new wave, blending the jangly guitars of the Mama’s and the Papas with the no-nonsense synths of Kraftwerk. This is far from a paint by genre venture with the album’s constant reliance on a rumbling under current of overdrive helping to give it a faint punk aftertaste.
The album is a quick 30-minute listen, but there is no filler here, just one upbeat track after another, infusing your day with pop-fueled joy. Alvvays aren’t the first band to mine for 60s gold tones, but the difference with their debut effort is the masterful songwriting on each and every track. Wash away the reverb, the surf guitar riffs, and the buzzing keyboards and you’d still be left with nine memorable songs. The melodies are infectious and simple, stirring up feelings of childlike wistfulness.
“Atop a Cake”:
The lyrics throughout the album mirror the album’s straight-forward approach. Whether it be the age-old matrimonial pleas of “Archie, Marry Me,” the love from afar tale of “Adult Diversion,” or the both simplistic mantra of “Ones Who Love You” (“Love the ones who love you / Leave the ones who don’t”), these songs aren’t going to change the world. When the band delves into darker territory on “Next of Kin” (it’s a love letter to a drowned lover), it plays off like a carefree riverside romp. You’re not going to find heady stuff on Alvvays debut album, but what else do you expect from a bunch of kids in their early 20s? Instead, revel in the bright-eyed, naive wonder found in these nine optimistic melodies.