A staggering amount of new music comes out every year, especially when you consider mixtapes and other assorted free releases and one-off projects and so on. It’s literally impossible to keep up with it all. As such, no matter how diligent of a music fan you are, some really good stuff will fall through the cracks through no fault of your own. It’s hard for releases that aren’t on the Taylor Swift level to gain traction. The best album of 2014 – in my opinion – came out one year ago Wednesday. More than that, I think it might be the best album of the last four or five years. It’s a true classic, and there’s a more than passing chance you aren’t even aware of its existence. The album in question? The self-titled debut by Canadian band Alvvays.
This is not to suggest that Alvvays, pronounced “always,” is a completely unknown band we’re blowing the lid off of at the moment. At the same time, they also aren’t U2 or anything like that. They should be big stars, though, based on the quality of their music. Alvvays is an all-killer, no-filler piece of brilliance. It’s only nine songs and a little shorter than 33 minutes, by why quibble with near perfection? The only minor issue one could broach is that they end the album with “Red Planet,” which is the least-good song of the bunch, but there’s a difference between “least good” and “not good.”
Alvvays is a beautiful album, one of the most aesthetically pleasant albums you will ever gift your ears with. Frontwoman Molly Rankin, daughter of a former member of the family country group The Rankin Family (who won a bunch of Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys), has an amazing voice. She’s not a virtuoso in the style of a Mariah Carey; her voice is actually somewhat flat in tone, but it’s wonderful, and perfectly fitting with the style of music the band plays.
As a whole, Alvvays plays a very pretty, jangly take on rock music. Rankin has included bands like Pavement and Teenage Fanclub as influences, and you can hear that in their sound, although those bands don’t have a keyboard, which is a nice addition to Alvvays. Lyrically, the group also shares something with Pavement in terms of understanding how to craft words and phrases in a way that sound great when put to music. Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, however, achieved that with nonsense lyrics that merely sound cool. Alvvays actually has songs about something, mostly love and heartbreak. They don’t reinvent the wheel, but they made some pretty great wheels, nonetheless. They’re funny and sharp and never embarrass the band, which can be an unfortunate side effect of singing about romance.
If you’re on the fence about checking out Alvvays, just listen to “Archie, Marry Me,” the best song on this outstanding album. If you don’t like that glorious slice of music, the album may not be up your alley. Also, you may be a crazy person. Recently, when talking to NME, Alvvays indicated that their next album will be “faster” and “more aggressive.” Considering that the strength of their debut is in its softness and prettiness, this feels like it could be a less than rewarding move. That being said, bands are entitled to do what they want with their sound, and there’s nothing to indicate that a change will sideline what the band does so well. The new album could be fast and loud, and still wonderful. Regardless of how it turns out, we’ll always have Alvvays, which should go down as one of the best albums of this decade.
Even if you didn’t know about it until right now.