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I’ll be honest with you. I’m partial to becoming hyper-fixated on a particular release for weeks/months on end. It’s a problem in terms of waking up in the middle of the night with certain lyrics spinning around my head or knowing most of the chords before Pitchfork have even published their review, but sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I fall into that record’s world and I stay there until it’s uninhabitable and the CD doesn’t work in my car anymore. I knew as soon as I clicked play on the promo link for Blue Rev and I heard the first five seconds of opener Pharmacist, I was going to have to ration it out. This couldn’t become another album I’d be so obsessed with that I had no choice to fall out of love with it in a month’s time. This was too special.
Released on October 7, Blue Rev is Alvvays‘ third studio album and the first recorded with new members, Sheridan Riley (drums) and Abbey Blackwell (bass). They first began working on the new album shortly after the release of Antisocialites (2017), but were plagued with setbacks; from hundreds of hours of demos stolen in a burglary of singer/songwriter/guitarist Molly Rankin’s apartment to a flood almost destroying a basement full of gear, followed by rehearsals being delayed by border closures relating to the pandemic, they could’ve packed it in. Yet despite production throwing everything it possibly could at Rankin, Alec O’Hanley (lead guitarist/co-songwriter), Kerri MacLellan (keys), plus Riley and Blackwell, Alvvays persevered with Blue Rev – turning in the band’s most exploratory, sonically diverse and longest release to date.
From the swirling, all-encompassing wall-of-sound guitars that drape around each song, to the pitch-bending Korg that is so central to the band’s sound, it’s Molly Rankin’s lyrics and vocals that catch me every single time. Blue Rev (named after a youthful alcoholic beverage of choice supplied by the elder brothers of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) serves as a portal to the past. It’s reflecting on the energy of going home and confronting your past and the way that things have changed, something of which we’ve all experienced at some point. It’s that first visit to your hometown after moving away and noticing the club you first got knocked back from as a preteen is now a bank, or something. It’s the realisation that a person who you believed to be a central figure in your life is no longer that version. Grappling with that loss and the feelings that transpire from it. Lyrics like ‘those days, I’d never let you fall apart but things fade like the scent of a brand new car’ from After The Earthquake hint at the growth and changes of relationships; a tale of once having had the power and emotional adversity to get their partner through anything but now it’s beginning to fade. Much like the sound, the sentiment is so layered and dreamy that the real pain underneath is obscured, almost invisible.
The new wave-inspired Very Online Guy is a sarcastic ode to ‘reply guys’ who are desperate for attention on the internet. The manipulated vocals over lo-fi production makes it a clever opus that brings you back to the wry humour that Alvvays are very good at- offsetting the other heartbreaking themes. The jangly Pomeranian Spinster makes you want to speak your mind to someone who’s pissing you off. I’m never very good at being decisive (as you’ll see from my EOY list), but it’s Belinda Calling that is my personal favourite on the record, and potentially my favourite track of the year. Inspired By Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth (of course), it’s a fictional story of a pregnant woman leaving with ‘nothing in pocket’ and seeing ‘how it goes’. You’re almost unable to pinpoint what era this track is from; its big 80s keys with layered harmonies cradle the MBV-like guitars for the big Belinda Belt that Rankin gives at the end of the last verse (what a vocal register this gal has). Tonnes of left turns mid-song, and beautiful crescendos. With an overwhelming sense of wonder and depth, sonically and lyrically, it’s a record that sweeps you away, complete with melodies that feel as if they’ve lived in your head for life; that feel like home.
Blue Rev – Alvvays is no longer in stock