Blue Rev, the new studio album released by Canadian indie and dream-pop band Alvvays, was always going to be a process to put together. This process was even more exacerbated by the many problems that all came together to stifle songwriting and recording. Thievery, flooding, COVID, and a whole new rhythm section swept away any hope of finishing their third album with any sort of speed, but despite all this, the record slaps. The songs are dense and layered with the sounds of buzzing guitars and washed-out vocals. Lead singer and songwriter Molly Rankin is at the top of her game, giving boisterous vocal performances that sound as if your speakers are about to blow apart on every track. Every track bleeds euphoria and summertime even more so than their previous work.
This feeling begins from the opener and lead single of the album Pharmacist. The song quickly explodes into a massive hit of guitars, with Rankin’s vocals sitting slightly under them in a near shoegaze state. The intelligibility of lyrics is not something with which the record is concerned. The vocal passages function mainly as an instrument for the band After hitting the hook a couple times and throwing a few Beach Boys-style harmonies, the track outros with a barely controlled guitar solo, giving a syllabus for how the rest of the LP will play out.
Much of the record does play out with the ideas given by this first song. Easy on Your Own and After the Earthquake finds Ranking taking the shoegaze-like sound to somehow bliss-filled tunes about survival after life-changing events. Very Online Guy throws in 80s video game-style synths and glitchy vocal effects to discuss the feelings of crushing on someone who’s been documenting their life on social media. Velveteen has perhaps the most gorgeous vocal harmonies on the whole record, with the hook floating in like the delicate feelings of disappointment and yearning expressed within the track. The song ends with a stunning hit of the highest of high notes in the most emotional moment on the album. Tile by Tile is one of the multiple moments in which the record brings the sounds of church into dream-pop. The synths here almost sound like a chapel organ and cleanly complement Rankin’s most relaxed and conversational performance on the album. The album even pays tribute to Belinda Carlisle’s classic one-hit-wonder Heaven is a Place on Earth with Belinda Says, placing in a sick key change that both mimics the 80s classic and marks one of the best spots in the tracklist.
Blue Rev marks the completion of all of the potential that Alvvays showed on their self-titled debut in 2014. The only minor missteps on the record are due to how similar it sounds; however, these are minor as the band knew to keep both the songs and album short to prevent boredom. With Blue Rev, Alvvays gives us the perfect album to put summer to a close and enter the colder months feeling all the warmer for it. Strong 9/10.