As a pretty big of Montreal fan, I’m glad they seem to be edging away from the electro-funk sound and getting closer to the 60’s psych/folk pop tunes of their earlier work. Kevin Barnes has said their new album will be inspired by Neil Young and Flying Burrito Brothers and that definitely shows in the twangy, stripped-down first single, “fugitive air”.
Its runtime as breezy as its beach-born sound, Alvvays is the self-titled debut from the Canadian quintet. It opens sleepily, and like a perfect summer day, it’s over too soon, its surf-pop delights lasting barely over half an hour.
Leaving the Toronto tundra far behind, if only in dreams, they settle effortlessly into the chamber pop soundscape of the California coast. Comparisons to Best Coast are unavoidable; both groups marry an unaffected vocal style with jangling guitars, aiming to replicate the wistful sounds of summer. Both succeed. But where Alvvays differ from this mold, they improve on it. Their narratives are more direct, their subject matter refreshingly different. In a word – one I use cautiously – Alvvays are tumblresque. The band even has a tumblr for its website.
Firmly rooted in millennial culture, they speak with the lexicon of their generation, and engage in its frank handling of awkward topics, especially those unique to life in a post-internet, post-9/11, post-nuclear family, post-postmodern, post-everything world.
“Adult Diversion”, the track featured here, lacks pop’s familiar self-assurance. Instead, it’s awash in the doubts and insecurities of young adults of our time.
How do I get close to you? Even if you don’t notice As I admire you on the subway
It uses specific, immediately relatable images like this to elevate the individual tableau to the universal. By using a directly personal approach to songwriting, Alvvays are able to transcend the limits of individual persons to make music for people living here and now. This sort of first-person confessional songwriting is what Taylor Swift does so well, and if it works for country-pop, here it works just as well for pop of the surf variety.
The other promotional single, “Archie, Marry Me”, is a contemporary send-up of the usual pop romantic pining – you know, the kind you might actually find in a Taylor Swift song:
You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony. You’ve student loans to pay and will not risk the alimony
But beneath the sardonicism, it’s endearingly sincere. The message of the song isn’t to dismiss social norms like marriage because they are outdated; instead, its narrator sheepishly longs for the comfort and security of such an old-school system, even while acknowledging its faults.
So honey take me by the hand and we can sign some papers. Forget the invitations, floral arrangements and bread makers
By playing specifically to the concerns of modern life, Alvvays have a firm handle on the cultural zeitgeist. But by also penning wistfully cool songs, whose strength lie in their direct honesty as much as in their millennial trendiness, they’ve achieved a timelessness rare for a first album.