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Adult Diversion A+
Hm, the point of me writing track reviews—normally—is to help me come up with things to say in the main body of the review. However, I knew this album so well that I already finished writing the body! That's OK, though... I can actually use these track reviews to talk about things I didn't get around to talking about. For instance, this explosive opener. Can you believe how strong this album is? It has only nine songs—the opening song is explosive—and I didn't even mention it in the body of this review. Anyway, this is upbeat—something you can dance to, if you feel so inclined, with a dense drum beat, a tambourine, a flurry of jangle guitars, droney synthesizers... and somehow Molly Rankin's voice can cut through all of that. Oh, and the melody is catchy! You know, this is a great composition, too... the instrumentals get a little busier as it reaches the end, so it actually climaxes.
Archie, Marry Me A+
Well, this is the pop song. If you are ever in a public place and hear something from Alvvays, it's probably going to be this song. It's the one with the chorus that's instantaneously memorable. ...Man, and there's nothing clean about their instrumentation. This is like a heavy custard, or something. I hear distorted guitars playing everywhere, and I can hardly make out a single note they're playing. How is Rankin able to get the lyrics across?
Ones Who Love You A+
The previous two songs were more upbeat and in your face. This one, they take things down a notch. ...This may just be a product of me having listened to this album so many times, but I think using a drum machine instead of—you know—a real drummer was a good move here. That artificial pattering lends to the droning push of this song, and Rankin is left to coo heavenly above all of that. This song has a beautiful chorus already—but then a second chorus (or perhaps a middle-eight section)—seems to pop out of nowhere and becomes even more beautiful. ...You know it takes a very talented songwriter to do that sort of thing. This is why I think Alvvays are going to continue to release great albums after this debut.
Next of Kin A+
I really don't run across to many albums that have this level of great pop songs on them. Not even most albums from the great bands from '60s had this level of songs on it. Once again, the melodies are complex, it never goes flat anywhere, and the chorus really seems to surprise me whenever it comes up. Considering how many times I've heard this, it's kind of weird that I would say the chorus continues to surprise me, but it does. The lyrics are also particularly beautiful here, telling a bittersweet and romantic tale about a lost love.
Party Police A+
This one also gets to me. The chorus is heartbreaking, mostly because of Rankin's vocal delivery... ( “You don't have to leave / you can just stay here with me”) It makes me think about all the close friendships I used to have that have almost completely withered with time. And then there's a really haunting line that comes up in the final third that gives me the shivers... (“We wrote our names on the overpass / And I hope it lasts / Forever”).
The Agency Group A
OK, maybe I don't have to give all these songs an A+, after all. This is still a very good song, but it doesn't quite pop out at me like the rest. Also, as I keep on saying, they don't really vary the instrumentation of anything here; the same instruments that went into making “Party Police” made this one. It's also quite a bit longer than any other song on the album, so maybe it doesn't quite surprise me like so many other songs do, and it drones on a little more. ...And yet, I'm still giving the song a full “A,” so I must still like it! Surely, I'm not sick of their style at all by this point, and they're giving us yet another melody that's completely hummable and fairly complex.
Compared to the other songs here, this one is a three-minute drone, and it doesn't contain any particular surprises in the melody... although it is still a well-written melody. This is another song that uses a drum machine sound, which does work when you're creating a drone. Then the blaring synthesizers are mixed in heavily, and a twinkly guitar provides its jangle-pop texture.
Atop a Cake A+
I like the way this song starts out—with a couple of warm guitars playing a simple, jangly texture. Then Rankin starts to sing for a few seconds before a danceable drumbeat chimes in, which suddenly turns this into the most danceable song of the album. The melody is also one of the most infectious—sort of an acrobatic verses section before it launches into another incredible chorus.
Red Planet A
This strikes me as an oddball way to end the album. Not only a song that drones, this time, but it's kind of creepy as well. I know the song title suggests this, but … this is what you should listen to if you ever find yourself wandering around the lonely landscape of Mars. No prominent guitars on this song until the very end of it, when one or two of them starts to twinkle in. Yes, that is what water would sound like on Mars. Until then, all we get is Rankin singing along to some droning synthesizers and a very sparse, pattering drum machine line. Still, the thing compels me.