Alvvays to play the Iron Horse this Thursday

By Jackson Maxwell

(Courtesy of Paul Hudson)
(Paul Hudson/flickr)

Canadian indie-pop quintet Alvvays will light up the Iron Horse Musical Hall with its irrepressible melodies this Thursday night. Drawing influences from a myriad of genres and warping them into a tantalizing, tuneful mix of great songwriting and infectious energy, Alvvays has emerged as one of independent music’s most exciting new bands.
The band first came about when lead singer and guitarist Molly Rankin enlisted fellow guitarist and Nova Scotia native Alec O’Hanley to perform on a solo EP that Rankin released in 2010. The EP showed Rankin exploring a more folky side of her musical consciousness, one that likely came from her relation to the Rankin Family, one of Canada’s most acclaimed roots-music ensembles.
Rankin and O’Hanley continued to collaborate, and before long, the two recruited Kerri MacLellan on keyboard, and O’Hanley’s friends Brian Murphy on bass and Phil MacIsacc on drums.
Avoiding much of the homespun quality that defined her solo work, Rankin’s work with Alvvays was quietly ambitious. Reflecting this growing determination, the band moved out of the cozy confines of Nova Scotia to Toronto last year.
Stylistically, Alvvays took on more of a jangle-pop identity, emphasizing simple musical structures and earworm choruses. One can draw a clear line between the band’s self-titled debut album, released July 22, and the “C86” compilation, a 22-song cassette released in 1986 by the British magazine, New Musical Express. It showcased a selection of the United Kingdom’s most exciting independent bands of the time. But, the tape as a whole was geared toward a very specific and simplistic jangle-pop sound. Its songs were brief and to the point, but made an incredible mark, a formula Alvvays follows to perfection in its debut.
The album kicks off with two of this summer’s most enduring anthems. “Adult Diversion” begins with a Motown-like bass line, one that gives the song an immediately warm feel. The song’s verse is effortlessly sunny, while the chorus is a feather-light wonder in pop songwriting.
“Archie, Marry Me” is even more of a classic. As indie rock’s best summer offering, it is simply a masterpiece. Rankin punctuates a classic story of commitment in a romance (or lack thereof), with a bone-simple, but devastatingly effective chorus. Over soaring guitar chords, Rankin implores her companion, “Hey! Hey! Marry me Archie.”
While nothing else on “Alvvays” quite matches the impassioned rush of its first two tracks, it does not include a single weak track. For a debut album, it is remarkably self-assured, sure-footed in its sound and confident in its charms.
The album’s attitude and feel is fully represented in a key lyric in another one of the collection’s better tracks, “Atop a Cake.” During that song’s chorus, Rankin asks the listener, over some gorgeous lead guitar work from O’Hanley, “How can I lose control, when you’re driving from the back seat?” It is that feeling of dream-like comfort and limitless possibility that makes this young band so special.
Pennsylvanian band Team Spirit will open for Alvvays at Iron Horse this Thursday. Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the door.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]