There seems to be a ubiquity of bands who make reverb-laden indie pop in today's music climate. Most of them are pretty interchangeable too, pushing out the same peppy melodies, the same wall-of-sound guitars, the same wistful female vocals. When done well, it can make for a sublime listening experience, but far too often bands are content with bringing the same generic sound to the table over and over again.
Up-and-coming Toronto band Alvvays was initially pitched to me as Best Coast meets Camera Obscura. I'm always a little wary of a new one of these bands, but that combination immediately piqued my interest. I don't listen to Best Coast much anymore, but liked them quite a bit at one point, and I consider Camera Obscura -- my favorite band -- the gold standard of reverb-heavy, catchy indie pop. And in listening to the debut self-titled album from Alvvays, I can definitely see where the Best Coast-plus-Camera Obscura description comes from. Similarly to the former's first and best album, Alvvays is perfect music for a warm sunny day. It's also ruthlessly efficient, containing nine indelible songs that average about three minutes. And like the latter, the band has found a classic female indie pop vocalist in Molly Rankin, whose sweet, dreamy voice rests snugly in the mix of bright guitars.
Lead single "Archie, Marry Me" is a perfect encapsulation of the album's catchy simplicity. There are no frills, it's just a childlike, innocent profession of love to a boy named Archie. Rankin talks about "sailing out on the Atlantic" and being taken by the hand in a gentle, traditional way that'll warm hearts and faces alike. Even the name Archie recalls something very simple and old-timey. "Ones Who Love You," the best song on the album, shares that lovely and infectious quality. Sunny, bobbing guitars in the verses and choruses give way to a swooning bridge. The first half of the album is full of these kind of uncomplicated structures and head-swaying melodies.
On the second half of the album, the band begins to tap into the other side of the emotional dial. Much of the more somber songs are about the difficulty of reading and communicating with people. On the plaintive "Party Police," Rankin sings, "I cannot decipher conversation in your head." "The Agency Group" is all about a hazily defined relationship, centered around the chorus' revelation of, "When you whisper you don't think of me that way / when I mention you don't mean that much to me." Album closer "Red Planet" takes the idea even further, telling a story about two people who are seemingly from entirely different worlds.
Nobody's going to mistake this album for being original, but it contains endless pleasures nonetheless. Alvvays is unashamed about its influences and the band executes its vision with charm and confidence. There's so much of this brand of indie pop that it's hard to stand out, but Alvvays does so due to the strength of their melodies and the acuity of their emotions.