Album Review: Alvvays – Blue Rev

The Canadian indie poppers make their much-anticipated return with an album that doubles everything that made them lovable

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. It certainly seems as if the five years since we last heard from Canadian indie poppers Alvvays has stirred up strong feelings among the faithful. It would only be human if founding members Molly Rankin, Kerri MacLellan and Alec O’Hanley feared they’d return to find the lights off and the house deserted, such is the fickle and transient nature of music these days. In reality, they came back (with new additions Sheridan Riley and Abbey Blackwell) to gasps of relief and delight. If ever we needed their perky, poppy sugar rushes, it’s now.

Their UK shows sold out in a heartbeat. The release of first single ‘Pharmacist’ was greeted like a long-lost relative. You know The Simpsons Poochie episode, where Homer suggests that every time Poochie isn’t in the room, everyone should be asking “Where’s Poochie?” It feels like we’ve spent the last few years asking: “Where’s Alvvays?”, even if we didn’t always (alvvays?) realise it.

Alvvays - Pharmacist [Official Audio]

If you’re going to wait, you can only hope that the wait will be worth it. This one is overwhelmingly so. Nobody was clamouring for Alvvays to get any better than they already were but they have. The changes aren’t immediately obvious. The group’s core sound of endless Berocca guitars, glossy synths and Rankin’s sighing voice are blessedly intact, but there are forays in different directions that reward the band’s exploratory instincts.

Alvvays - Belinda Says [Official Video]

Synths usually glisten in the background or swoop and soar around the choruses of Alvvays songs, but on the internet skewering ‘Very Online Guy’ they leap to the fore and, combined with the piles of reverb on Rankin’s voice, add a pleasingly digital aesthetic to the song. ‘Velveteen’ could easily be a lost Belinda Carlisle gem or a massive hit for Carly Rae Jepson. Belinda pops up again as a touchpoint, most explicitly on the wonderful ‘Belinda Says’ which is already perfectly before it takes off into orbit on its final chorus.

Alvvays - Very Online Guy [Official Video]

Guitars take a back seat on the final three songs, a sparkling run of synth-driven numbers (although those overdriven guitars on the chorus of ‘Lottery Noises’ are glorious) that are as good as anything the band has ever produced. Rankin pushes her voice into the red as the song starts to disintegrate and the effect is startling, only emphasised further by the swooning melodrama of closer ‘Fourth Figure’.

Everything that made Alvvays so easy to love seems to be in sharper focus on Blue Rev. Rankin’s character studies are more complex, her voice more insistent, the music deeper and more layered. Nobody’s going to happily sign up to wait another five years, but you can’t say it hasn’t been worth it.

Blue Rev by Alvvays is out to buy or stream now on Polyvinyl Records