EVERY SONG on Alvvays' debut album is catchy and charming and coolly brilliant.
Yes, "Archie, Marry Me," is the immediate standout, with its perfectly jangly guitars, gentle crunch, and loping, roller-coaster melodic ideas. It is the kind of song that stops you in your tracks the first time you hear it, the kind of timeless tune most musicians spend a lifetime trying to pin down.
Meanwhile, the equally worthy "Adult Diversion" kicks off the nine-track, self-titled record with a bouncy bass line and a fluttery melody that recalls classic indie pop. In "Next of Kin," it's the verses that shimmer before giving way to a gorgeous chorus that glides on frontwoman Molly Rankin's gauzy voice. And "The Agency Group" cranks up the reverb, like a garage-surf version of a Britpop ballad, while "Red Planet" allows Rankin's vocals to echo forever as smeared, shadowy keys drone beneath her.
Elsewhere, "Ones Who Love You" and "Party Police" are slower and more downcast, with Rankin working through the confusion that inevitably happens when youth and love collide. "We wrote our names on the overpass," she sings in the latter, "and I hope it lasts forever."
Since Alvvays was released by Polyvinyl Records in the US in July, the Toronto band that shares its name—pronounced "always," by the way—has received widespread praise for its sound, which is both radiant and downcast, at once self-assured but still finding its place in the world. It is the sound of growing and maturing wrapped in the fuzzy resonance of seminal indie-pop scenes like the C86 movement and the Sarah Records catalog.
Not that the attention has affected Rankin much. Born into a famous folk-music family (the Rankin Family, a Juno-winning Canadian folk act) and raised on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she is a study in nonchalance.
"I take everything with a grain of salt—favorable things and mean things," Rankin says from a tour stop in New Orleans. "Neither are really all that helpful."
Cape Breton is a rural and remote place with a strong tradition of Celtic folk. It is not a place where a teenager can wander into the local record store and thumb through the latest issue of chickfactor.
"The first time I could ever really look up bands is when we had dial-up internet, and then Napster came out and we were discovering all these bands," Rankin says. "Otherwise, it was really Canadian-centric roots music, or whatever we could steal from our older siblings, [like] Jagged Little Pill."
Eventually, Rankin found Oasis and worked her way back to the Stone Roses. She found the Raveonettes and worked her way back to the Jesus and Mary Chain. "I'm still working backward," she says.
Alvvays, however, is moving forward. After playing Canada and the northeastern United States quite a bit, the group—now a five-piece of Rankin, Alec O'Hanley, Kerri MacLellan, Brian Murphy, and Phil MacIsaac—is in the middle of its first swing across the West, and Alvvays has begun to show up on lists of the best music of the year. It was recorded at Chad VanGaalen's Yoko Eno studio two winters ago, but following a self-released cassette edition in 2013, the band held off on a wider release until they had all their ducks in a row. Now, that patience is paying off.
"We were really stubborn and we waited a long time to have it come out the way that we wanted to and to have as much support as we do now, because there were a lot of opportunities for us to give in and just put it out and have it sort of deflate," Rankin says. "But we were stubborn, and now it has overshot our expectations. I mean, we didn't think that we would be going over to the UK and playing for a relatively full venue. So it's cool. It's been a really great surprise."