Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment

Alvvays embrace expansive shoegaze in a bold development of their sound

Though it took Alvvays five years to produce the follow-up to 2017’s Antisocialites, their third record Blue Rev proves to be worth the wait. The band grappled with several setbacks in the album’s production, including the theft of their early demo tapes, the destruction of their equipment in a basement flood, and the replacement of their rhythm section. Yet this hardly stopped them from producing a record that boldly innovates by building on their indie-pop foundations. 

Blue Rev sees the band take their catchy musical formula and throw it through a hazy, dream-pop-inspired filter: Soundscapes drip with fuzzy and distorted guitars, vintage synthesizers provide sparkly counterpoints, and drums with heavy reverb deepen out the sonic palette. The result is a richer, more all-encompassing sound than that of their previous material. 

Yet amongst this expansion, Alvvays maintain a clinical songwriting approach. Songs rarely exceed three minutes, wasting no time in quickly presenting a memorable hook. Blue Rev is also as emotionally cathartic as ever, with themes of suburban, often unrequited, love, afforded greater poignance and warmth by lead singer Molly Rankin’s increasingly bold vocal delivery. 

Opener ‘Pharmacist’ concentrates an inordinate amount of pop goodness across its two-minute runtime. ‘After the Earthquake’ begins with jangly, Johnny Marr-esque guitar riffs, which then make way for a breakneck, pop-punk inspired second half. Meanwhile, ‘Very Online Guy’ is an exercise in 80s synth pop and influencer satire which works against all odds. 

Blue Rev’s only weakness is that some of its material is more compelling than others. Moments like the alternative rock homage on ‘Lottery Noises’, or the semi-cliched refrain of always waiting on ‘Bored in Bristol’ see the album tire towards its tail end. Nevertheless, this is a more than fair price to pay in exchange for a strong 14-song tracklist by a band willing to traverse new territory, making Blue Rev a wholly satisfying pop experience. 

Blue Rev is available to stream on all streaming platforms, and Alvvays are touring North America from October to December.

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