A Newbury Comics exclusive color vinyl pressing.
Alvvays never intended to take five years to finish their third album, the nervy joyride that is the compulsively lovable Blue Rev. In fact, the band began writing and cutting its first bits soon after releasing 2017’s Antisocialites, that stunning sophomore record that confirmed the Toronto quintet’s status atop a new generation of winning and whip-smart indie rock.
Global lockdowns notwithstanding, circumstances both ordinary and entirely unpredictable stunted those sessions. Alvvays toured more than expected, a surefire interruption for a band that doesn’t write on the road. A watchful thief then broke into singer Molly Rankin’s apartment and swiped a recorder full of demos, one day before a basement flood nearly ruined all the band’s gear. They subsequently lost a rhythm section and, due to border closures, couldn’t rehearse for months with their masterful new one, drummer Sheridan Riley and bassist Abbey Blackwell.
At least the five-year wait was worthwhile: Blue Rev doesn’t simply reassert what’s always been great about Alvvays but instead reimagines it. They have, in part and sum, never been better. There are 14 songs on Blue Rev, making it not only the longest Alvvays album but also the most harmonically rich and lyrically provocative.
There are newly aggressive moments here—the gleeful and snarling guitar solo at the heart of opener “Pharmacist,” or the explosive cacophony near the middle of “Many Mirrors.” And there are some purely beautiful spans, too—the church- organ fantasia of “Fourth Figure,” or the blue-skies bridge of “Belinda Says.” But the power and magic of Blue Rev stems from Alvvays’ ability to bridge ostensible binaries, to fuse elements that seem antithetical in single songs—cynicism and empathy, anger and play, clatter and melody, the soft and the steely. The luminous poser kiss-off of “Velveteen,” the lovelorn confusion of “Tile by Tile,” the panicked but somehow reassuring rush of “After the Earthquake”.
The songs of Blue Rev thrive on immediacy and intricacy, so good on first listen that the subsequent spins where you hear all the details are an inevitability.
This perfectly dovetailed sound stems from an unorthodox—and, for Alvvays, wholly surprising—recording process, unlike anything they’ve ever done. Alvvays are fans of fastidious demos, making maps of new tunes so complete they might as well have topographical contour lines.