When I compile best of albums of the year each December, I have a few rules for myself. One such rule is that I must have the album in my collection. This is a relatively new thing, post-pandemic. Either way, it’s inevitable: each January, I tend to finally get an album that I hadn’t picked up that should have made the list. Case in point, the third Alvvays album, Blue Rev, which just arrived half way through January.
Queue eye roll.
Before I do a deep dive on the album, an admission: I’ve been calling them “Alvvvvays” for years. Emphasis on the V. So you don’t make the same mistake as me, I’m going to quote the first two sentences from a 2014 Vice article. And I quote:
“The first thing you need to know about Toronto’s Alvvays is that it’s pronounced “Always.” They don’t really mind if you pronounce it phonetically, but you’ll sound like a dummy.”Alvvays Interview [Vice, 2014]
End quote and let’s just queue up the second eye roll.
So, the two v’s? It’s really just a clever, humorous way of writing w (or, which, in this case is actually double v).
A Quick Background on Blue Rev
I’ve been a fan of Alvvays for years, and last year finally added their debut LP to my collection. Antisocialites hasn’t yet found its way in, but it’s definitely on my want list.
On their Bandcamp page, the band notes that they never intended for Blue Rev to take five years to release. Unforeseen circumstances threw a wrench in the mix extending well beyond the global pandemic.
Singer Molly Rankin’s apartment was broken into and a recorder full of demos was taken. One day later, a basement flood nearly ruined the band’s gear. They lost a rhythm section — their drummer and bassist were ultimately replaced by Sheridan Riley and Abbey Blackwell respectively — and the pandemic kept them from rehearsing with the new crew.
I’d say the wait was worth it.
I’m going to pull a quote from some of the promotional collateral that accompanies Blue Rev:
“Named for the sugary alcoholic beverage Rankin and MacLellan used to drink as teens on rural Cape Breton, Blue Rev looks both back at that country past and forward at an uncertain world, reckoning with what we lose whenever we make a choice about what we want to become.”
In that sense, if you’re in your 30s—or even, like me, early 40s—you’ll find Blue Rev to be incredibly relevant and relatable.
Blue Rev Album Review
Blue Rev seemed to yield quite the acclaim upon its release last year, and that hype is continuing — after all, October wasn’t all that long ago. Diving in, you can hear why. It’s filled with uncertainty, with humor, with reminiscence, with contemplation. It’s smart and, like previous Alvvays albums to be honest, quite catchy.
Where their debut looked forward as those in throes of early 20s youthfulness often do, and their sophomore release dealt more with the now, the present, Blue Rev blends the past, present and future for a more well-rounded experience. And, at the most base level of it all, they do so with the same level of brazen lyrics, catchy melodies, and memorable hooks, they’ve been giving us for a decade now.
“Pharmacy” kicks things off, and immediately you’re hit with a swirl of guitars and Rankin’s dreamy vocals. Where prior albums seemed more attuned to indie pop, here we’re introduced to something louder, fuller, and swarming with melodic noise.
Blue Rev is borderline shoegazey.
This continues throughout the album. “Easy On Your Own?” picks right up where “Pharmacy” concludes. Here, Alvvays plays around volume, inserting a slight respite from drowning noise before jumping back to a more indie pop sound in “After the Earthquake.”
“Very Online Guy” opens with a rockin’ synth, and Rankin’s vocal hooks are incredibly memorable. Where others on the album seem to downplay the inclusion of synth, they lean into it here. This song is ridiculously catchy, and finds Alvvays straddling the indie pop and shoegaze line masterfully.
Here’s the video for “Very Online Guy:”
Blue Rev on Vinyl
Before I wrap things up, I gotta point out a few observations about Blue Rev on vinyl.
Listening to the digital version is great, but digging into the vinyl version is where Blue Rev truly stands out. My copy, on blue wax, sounds cut from an entirely different master. The sound is greater, more precise, and it hits you in a completely different way.
When I put on the digital version, I hear a fair amount of indie pop. The vinyl, though? It’s shoegaze.
As for which I prefer, it’s hands down the vinyl. The digital version isn’t quite as powerful and almost seems to downplay the emotional depth you’ll find on wax. In many ways, it’s almost hard to believe it’s the same album!
So, do yourself a favor, and get Blue Rev on vinyl. It’s worth it, and it’ll blow your mind!
Video Review & Vinyl Unboxing
About a month ago, I put together a video review and unboxed the record for my YouTube Channel. Check out the coverage below: