(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #323: Alvvays

By on Friday, 9th January 2015 at 12:00 pm

Toronto alt-pop quintet Alvvays are beginning 2015 as they ended 2014, with a flurry of activity. Their self-titled debut album was released last July and has been lauded as one of the best releases of the year by the likes of NME, the Evening Standard and Drowned in Sound.

The band spent the early part of last autumn touring in Canada and America, then hopped the pond to play in the UK and Europe with Real Estate and Foxygen before wrapping up 2014 with another round of headline dates in North America. Picking up precisely where they left off, Alvvays will open the new year with a full UK tour later this month, followed by European live dates in February and an appearance at SXSW 2015 in March before a spring tour of North America with Colin Meloy and The Decemberists.

Fans of indie pop bands like Belle and Sebastian or Teenage Fanclub will find sonic kindred spirits in Alvvays. The band’s lightly trippy, mildly ironic musicality consists of mid-tempo rhythms and melodic instrumental lines deftly woven into vocal lines that are slightly aloof and removed from the proceedings, both in their lyrics and their restrained dynamic affect. Hints of synthesized keyboards flitter about, keeping a sense of lightness over the full warmth of the bass. Lead singer Molly Rankin’s voice isn’t particularly distinctive except for its consistently pleasant tone, which never falls prey to the strange affectations that many female singers succumb to. Her vocal temperament and the muted production of the vocal effects are a perfect match to the deliberate emotional detachment in her lyrics; for example, the lines “so honey take me by the hand and we can sign some papers / forget the invitations floral arrangements and bread makers” in ‘Archie, Marry Me’.

While Alvvays’ sound seems almost suffocatingly homogenous at first, closer listening reveals subtle degrees of variety. ‘Adult Diversion’, the opening track on the ‘Alvvays’ LP, opens with punchy percussion and a blatantly hooky guitar intro that melts into a muted, understated vocal line. The aforementioned ‘Archie, Marry Me’ and current single ‘Next of Kin’ are upbeat and optimistic, while mid-album tracks ‘Party Police’, ‘The Agency Group’ and ‘Dives’ display a darker, hazier mood. The oddly titled ‘Atop a Cake’ is purely catchy twee pop, sharply constrasted by the starry hypnoticism of final track ‘Red Planet’.

Alvvays’ appearance at SXSW 2014 was a promising introduction for the Canadian quintet, and it proved to be the beginning of wildly successful year for a band whose star is clearly on the rise. The bar of expectation will undoubtedly be raised for their showing in Austin later this year, perhaps giving them an opportunity to expand upon the current limits of their style.

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