Alvvays Return Triumphantly with “Blue Rev”
October 7th proved to be a blessed day for indie fans as Toronto indie pop band Alvvays released their long awaited third studio album, Blue Rev. The band’s previous work included the self-titled Alvvays in 2014, and their sophomore project Antisocialites in 2017. The two albums were met with unanimous praise from critics and fans alike. Alvvays became beloved for their dreamy indie pop songs with hard hitting drums, jangly guitars and Molly Rankin’s serene vocals. Following a long five-year hiatus after Antisocialites, Alvvays made a comeback in July of this year with their single “Pharmacist.” A few more singles followed and eventually in October, they released their highly anticipated third studio album, Blue Rev.
Alvvays had actually begun work on their third studio album in 2017 but were met with a series of unfortunate events. Their demo tapes were stolen, their equipment was damaged from flooding and last but not least, a worldwide pandemic would ensure. Five years and two brand new band members (drummer Sheridan Riley and bassist Abbey Blackwell) later, Alvvays would eventually release Blue Rev in October of 2022. The album’s title comes from a sugary vodka drink that Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan used to drink as teenagers. Continuing on with the apparent theme of nostalgia is the cover photo, which is a picture of a young Molly Rankin with her parents.
Blue Rev sees Alvvays make large progressions with their sound. Their trademark dream pop can still be heard, but now their music is more densely layered. There is a lot more grit and distortion going on. Alvvays aligns their instrumentation to noise pop and shoegaze, especially to bands such as Slowdive and Lush. This change is apparent in the very first track on the album and the first single that they released this year- “Pharmacist.” There is so much distortion that at points even Molly Rankin’s vocals seem muffled. This type of distortion and noise are also present on the tracks “Easy on Your Own?” and “Many Mirrors.” The jangly upbeat tunes that Alvvays became renowned for can still be found on the songs “After the Earthquake” and “Pomeranian Spinster.” “After The Earthquake” features the low to loud music transition present in many Alvvays songs and one that has fondly been attributed to the music of The Pixies. With “Online Guy”, we observe Alvvays further experimenting with their sound as a synthesizer is introduced into the mix.
“We started thinking about escaping expectations—of what we sound like, what we need to sound like, what people think we sound like, what we think we sound like”.
The themes that Alvvays discuss in this album include adulthood, heartbreak and identity. The struggles with relationships and connecting with people are still there, but on Blue Rev these topics seem to be presented in a much more mature way. This makes perfect sense given the large time gap between Blue Rev’s release. Where “Adult Diversion” discusses being shy and timid around a crush, “Pharmacist” talks about the awkwardness of running into your ex’s sister as she’s picking up medication. “Tile by Tile” is a song where the narrator is so desperate to hear back from their loved one, that they repeatedly pick up scam calls in the middle of the night, just on the off chance that it might be them. “Easy on Your Own?” sees the band rue with life after dropping out of college, of dull routine and of the struggles of doing things by yourself. It is a song that would be very relatable for people in their early 20s who are just starting work, as they set into an increasingly isolated world following leaving or graduating college. “Velveteen” is an introspective song that cross examines the protagonist growing up and has them questioning if they have made the right decisions along the way. “Belinda Says” however deals with more positive subject matter though. The Belinda is the title refers to Belinda Carlistle. It harkens back to Molly Rankin’s childhood and teen years and finding solace and comfort in music.
“A thing that I think is really beautiful is hearkening back to a day where the radio is your friend. At least I felt that way when I was little. I would throw on the local station that was playing all the current hits, like Natalie Imbruglia or something. You feel like they’re keeping you company.”
Molly Rankin speaking to Stereogum about Belinda Says
With Blue Rev, Alvvays return to the indie scene more confident in their sound and with their songwriting more polished than ever before. Blue Rev is a very colorful album which sees the band stay true to their roots while still growing and experimenting. It is a remarkable project and definitely one of the best indie albums of the year.
Alvvays are currently on tour, and you can get the tickets online at their website. You can follow Alvvays on their Bandcamp, Instagram and Facebook. You can listen to their music on their Spotify and YouTube.