My Record Collection from A–Z
Alvvays

Alvvays is a relatively new band from Toronto. I don’t quite remember how I heard about them but I like them quite a bit. They’ve been played a lot on college radio, topping charts and whatnot so I’m pretty much just jumping on a bandwagon here. They have a low-fi, noisey pop sound that reminds me a lot of the late 80s band, the Primitives (they will appear later in this blog but here’s a little sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57OxGHfI_j0) There’s a similar contrast between the jangly, feedback guitars and the sweet, almost childlike quality to the singer’s voice.

The only complaint I have are the songs here and there that seem just a bit out of reach for the singer, like she just can’t quite hit that high note. At other times these songs remind me a bit too much of the Cardigans or a bunch of kids trying to sing Christmas carols.

I watched them on redbull.tv this summer, playing Lollapalooza. They seemed to exhibit a comical lack of stage presence, especially considering how upbeat and happy the music seems. If anything, skip to the end to watch them leave the stage. They look so bummed, like they just had a really lame department meeting. http://www.bilibili.com/video/av13119288/

This interview with Molly Rankin is pretty funny, too. She’s very droll and hard to read. I think some of my American friends and colleagues just assume all Canadians are like that. Maybe it’s true?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL5dFg58FYA. But she sure does write some entertaining and well-crafted pop songs!

The fun thing about doing these posts is that I dive a bit deeper into the bands than I might normally do. For example, until just now, I did not know that the lead singer, Molly Rankin, is a member of THE Rankins. Growing up in Canada in the 80s and 90s, the Rankin Family was unavoidable. It seemed there was always some concert special airing on the CBC, featuring their “modern” celtic inspired fiddling and singing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6-mo4jS8VI Maybe the apple does fall far from the tree on occasion?

Here’s an article about how she “broke with family tradition”:

https://www.straight.com/music/778611/alvvayss-molly-rankin-broke-family-tradition

And more on the Rankin Family:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rankin_Family

Alvvays

The intro to the review on pitchfork: “Toronto indie-pop quintet Alvvays' Chad VanGaalen-produced debut is the sound of pristine pop music blasted through cheap, blown-out headphones. Every time it seems like a song is about to decay before your ears, you sense both the sadness and the liberation of knowing that nothing lasts forever.”

The standout track is Archie, Marry Me. It’s a really great song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAn3JdtSrnY

It’s a fun album to listen to, barring the annoying tracks mentioned above. The design kind of echoes that quirky low-fi, diy kind of sound…collag-y with handwritten liner notes but the vinyl is a really pretty blue color with lighter shades for the label. I’m always a sucker for colored vinyl but this disc is especially nice. Tim Reynolds (of Polyvinyl) is listed as providing “layout/art assistance, so I’m not sure how much of the album was designed by the band?

The pitchfork review:

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/19508-alvvays-alvvays/

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Antisocialites

This is their most recent release that I only bought just before Christmas. It’s a strong follow-up to the debut. Maybe it lacks a singly exceptional track like “Archie, Marry Me” but the whole album sounds somewhat stronger to me. There’s definitely still that noise there but it’s richer, fuller. I hesitate to say more polished—there’s something about Canadian bands that gain some popularity and then become over-produced on subsequent releases. Back in the day we used to call it sounding “more American”. I don’t want to curse them that way.

The video for “Dreams Tonite” is interesting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXu6q-6JKjA&feature=player_embedded. It’s archival footage of Expo 67 in Montreal with the band composited into it. Their sound really fits well into that aesthetic. I think my favorite track on this record is Plimsoll Punks. Here’s a live version on World Café: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzplW7NQ9qU. Or the audio only version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXZx19uN4MQ.

The artwork continues the theme of modernist pastiche on the cover and the disc labels. The sleeves are once again hand written with drawings, in the style of high school notebook graffiti, for each song title. This time, “composition and art” is credited to MR, AO. I’m assuming that’s Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley? These days, enamel pins are all the rage. When the album was released by Polyvinyl, they also had a series of pins available with artwork that I’m assuming was done to go along with the sleeve art. Only one pin left! https://www.polyvinylrecords.com/product/alvvays_enamel_pin 

An album interview:

http://undertheradarmag.com/interviews/alvvays_on_antisocialites_-_the_full_qa_interview

The pitchfork review:

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/alvvays-antisocialites/ . I don’t think I would score this album lower than their debut. As I said earlier, maybe it lacks the outstanding tracks and the “breath of fresh air” of the debut but it also lacks the lows. I get a sense that Pitchfork reviewers like to curse sophomore efforts, arbitrarily designating a band as too popular to still be cool.

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http://alvvays.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvvays

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