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CD of The Week

Week of 10/10/22

    Alvvays - Blue Rev (Polyvinyl)

    Now in their 11th year, Alvvays have their third album Blue Rev; a sweeping, jangly dream-pop soundscape that is both expected and surprising all at once. If the album feels like one extended track that evokes a consistent surreal vibe with emotional peaks and valleys, that may be because after months, nay, years of recorded demos (some of which were stolen and had to be reconstructed), Canadian producer Shawn Everett (The Killers, The War on Drugs) had Molly Rankin and crew play their album straight through, recording it straight to tape.

    To understand the album, it is important to peel back its layers and first look at the name. For those not in the know (like me), Rev is a Canadian vodka-based cola beverage that was marketed toward the nightclub culture, equivalent to, and available around the same time as Sparks was in the states. Rankin waxed nostalgic about it in a recent Rolling Stone interview, saying, “Blue Rev was a wine cooler that my peers and I drank at rink dances and in graveyards,” adding “It really is the taste of my youth in a way.” The swirling intro to “Bored in Bristol” carries with it beats bordering on techno that would have been in vogue while consuming Blue Rev at an aforementioned rink. The cover art is also quite literally nostalgic, as it is Rankin being lifted out of a boat by her parents while a storm is brewing behind.

    The ebbing and flowing of Rankin's hometown seaside elements are musically intertwined with memories from childhood to make up the bulk of Blue Rev’s inspiration. “Belinda Says” starts as an 80’s throwback jam that looks back on Rankin’s younger days that relied on the comfort of the radio, specifically referencing The Go-Go’s singer Belinda Carlisle, with, “Belinda says that heaven is a place on earth / Well so is hell.” Dreamy album opener “Pharmacist” revisits pieces from the past that are now barely recognizable upon homecoming via the framework of an old relationship.

    However, when Rankin is not remembering old haunts or acquaintances, she enjoys stepping out of herself and crafting fictional characters with entertaining backstories. On the soothing 80’s darkwave dance floor single “Very Online Guy,” Rankin sounds like she is singing in a haunting foreign language while eyerolling at social media trolls with lines like “He likes to hit reply… He’s only one photo, one filter away.”  The jangly rising and falling “After the Earthquake,” was inspired by a pandemic-read short story from Haruki Murakami. It shows characters focused on their impending break-up, nearly blind to the natural disaster around them. And the incredibly fun, fast-paced “Pomeranian Spinster,” sounding a bit like Wet Leg, recites the sort of pep talk that a meek, mild-mannered person might give themselves.

    After thirteen powerful songs, the tide is drawn out by the moon, and the sentimental prom waltz of “Fourth Figure” floats in, carefree on a bed of grandiose strings to complete the nautical trip down memory lane singing “Now I’ll take the photo off the fridge… Know that I still wait for you.” Memories may fade, but feelings are eternal. Blue Rev does well to catalog sentiment in both lyrical and atmospheric lullabies.

    Alvvays play Franklin Music Hall with Slow Pulp on November 12th.
    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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