After 5 years, Alvvays have come back with their third album, Blue Rev. Composed of 14 tracks, the record is an exciting return for indie pop fans who will be very familiar with previous hits of theirs including ‘Archie, Marry Me’ and ‘Dreams Tonite’. The five piece band’s core sound is distinguishable and warm in tone, guided by the husky lead vocals of Molly Rankin. Although Alvvays have typically been associated with jangle pop, originating in the 1960s, Blue Rev conveys a broader and more developed sound without completely subverting expectations of the genre.
The lead single, ‘Pharmacist’, opens the album, with Rankin’s vocals initially being isolated aside from a quiet beat before allowing the presence of the bass guitar to dominate. It is this guitar that carries the song from beginning to end, as explosive riffs close the track, juxtaposing Rankin’s soft vocals. Scratchy guitar riffs are indeed a mainstay of this record, maximising the sound whilst still ensuring balanced and harmonious production on each song. This provides a dynamic addition to the quintessential jangly guitar that typifies Alvvays’ existing discography.
The album is nostalgic in tone and certainly conveys this thematically. Many of the songs grapple with youthful romance, transition, and reflection on the past, but this engagement is far from generic. The band paint evocative images through their lyricism in songs such as in ‘After The Earthquake’, where a literal earthquake is described in order to convey this idea of wishing for a past where something fundamentally destructive has not happened. Rankin asks “If you wake up, will you remember / The awful things I said at the edge of the bed?”, rooting the song in the story of a relationship breaking down.
Additionally, the satirical dimension of Alvvays’ songwriting is revealed in songs such as ‘Very Online Guy’, an exposition of a superficial male persona with very digital production, and ‘Velveteen’, where Rankin sings “Is she a perfect ten? / Have you found Christ again?” in a bid to poke fun at a love interest. The soothing reverb at the beginning of the latter track evokes dream pop influences, further demonstrating the progression of their sound. This is also true of ‘Tile by Tile’, ‘Lottery Noises’ and ‘Bored in Bristol’. By contrast, ‘Pommeranian Spinster’ is the most upbeat track on the record which could be firmly positioned in the alt-rock genre. ‘Pressed’ is also a faster song which sees Rankin pushing the limits of her vocals, containing a kind of mania as it meditates on a breakup.
Blue Rev is a sentimental album, yet not understated in its sound or mood. It effectively captures the dynamism and intensity of youth through its reflections on change, stasis and the uncertain space that exists between.