the marriage of jangle-pop and post-punk has been a fruitful union; the latter sort of embodies the pessimistic outlook so often attributed to millennials while the former crusades against that preconceived notion, placing melodies and hooks in the foreground of an angsty wasteland.  a classic yin and yang of music.  nestled somewhere in the midst of this movement is alvvays, a toronto quintet whose riffs long for sunny beaches (presumably on the west coast, but maybe not) yet whose lyrics are full of melancholy, self-doubt, and regret, creating somewhat of an apparent identity crisis.  on the band’s self-titled debut, however, they prove time and again that this is a carefully calculated method of expression.

standing at the center of alvvays is molly rankin, her bored demeanor and slightly sullen lyrics often tracing the very riffs she chimes out on guitar.  the album hits hard with the one-two punch of “adult diversion” and “archie, marry me,” its opening number demonstrating how effortlessly rankin and fellow guitarist alec o’hanley are able to weave their guitar parts around one another.  supported by tongue-in-cheek lyrics with blunt questions that would leave the recipient sputtering, “adult diversion” segues into the mid-tempo, chord-crunching “archie, marry me,” a song that finds rankin enhancing her wry delivery by immediately conceding “you expressed explicitly / your contempt for matrimony” but trivializing the sentiment in the same breath with “you have student loans to pay / you will not risk the alimony.”

amidst the quick wit and humorous jabs lies a sense that rankin is grappling with darker, perhaps more pertinent emotions.  the subtle drum programming and wandering guitar riffs on “ones who love you” precede “next of kin,” a first-person narrative detailing the drowning of a boyfriend.  while the subject matter and its metaphor are morose, rankin manages to maintain some of her light disposition, and the duality of the song is further augmented by an earworm of a guitar riff (probably the album’s best) that crops up between chorus and verse.

the rest of alvvays finds the band trying on various identities for sides, usually with varying results.  the intervallic leaps throughout the chorus of “party police” get a bit repetitive and mundane, but the bare, ominous synth introduction to “dives” showcases a decidedly more delicate side of alvvays, one that is enhanced by the passive triple meter of the drum machine and the simple guitar arpeggios that stumble into the mix alongside rankin’s voice.  “red planet” closes out the album on the opposite end of the spectrum from “adult diversion,” allowing rankin’s vocals to provide the melody while synthesizers and a bass guitar provide harmonic motion.  for the first time on the record, rankin and her lyrics are put squarely in the spotlight, and she shines as this wonderful summer soundtrack drives off into the sunset.

7.8/10

digging through the dimestore saints archives, one can find a lot of coverage surrounding anything in return, the third album from chaz bundick’s toro y moi.  a year and a half since its release, the album has aged like a fine wine and it felt appropriate to revisit one of its irresistible singles, “say that,” this week.  check out the full band performing the song live on kcrw below.

less than a month after sharing his first slice of new music since last year’s kiss land, abel tesfaye has dropped another track as the weeknd.  “king of the fall” shares its name with the mini-tour the weeknd will be embarking on shortly with schoolboy q and jhené aiko, and hits harder and more aggressively than its predecessor, “often,” the thundering bass tones and its strong vocal hook hearkening back to the masterful house of balloons era.  sky ferreira appears on the artwork for “king of the fall,” adding an intriguing implication that the two could work together at some point in the future.  there’s been no confirmation yet, so just sit tight and take a listen below.

when the daredevil christopher wright released their excellent full-length the nature of things in 2012, it certainly didn’t feel like a hiatus was imminent.  when said hiatus occurred, however, founding member jonathan sunde was suddenly presented with an opportunity to flesh out songs he had accumulated over the years, songs that couldn’t quite find a place within daredevil’s repertoire.  after careful arranging and meticulous attention to detail, that collection of music has taken the form of shapes that kiss the lips of god, an admirable foray into the singer-songrwiter realm.

the singular, warbling timbre of sunde’s voice, so common and often definitive of his work in the daredevil christopher wright, is still present on shapes, its familiarity guiding listeners through his personal musical explorations.  on lead single “easy kid,” sunde traverses through layers of acoustic guitar and piano, each instrument’s melodic line partially informing his vocal contour.  as the drums kick in and a flute line prefaces the guitar solo that dominates the middle section of “easy kid,” it becomes clear that formula has been thrown out the door in favor of experimentation.

although his current geographical location is listed as minneapolis, sunde’s record still has a distinct wisconsin taste.  aside from sounding right at home in eau claire’s rich indie-folk tradition, shapes that kiss the lips of god was recorded at honeytone studios, across highway ten on the other side of the state in neenah, and features shane leonard (see: kalispell, field report) on drums and related percussion.  the lyrics on “dog days of summer” even drip of dairyland nostalgia, with the line “that sweet wisconsin night” repeated and strengthened with harmony until it becomes an early focal point of the song that leaves a lasting impression.

sunde is consistent in his lyrical quality throughout shapes, each song coming off as even stronger than its predecessor.  the album’s title is plucked from a lyric in “hickory point in the fall,” and although it’s described as an allegory for migrating birds, the line isn’t the sole biblical reference found on the record.  “a blinding flash of light” bluntly begins with a lamentation for jesus, and its chorus borrows the salient lines of “silent night.”  yet the song is decidedly introspective and sunde is lyrically on par with the likes of pedro the lion and little kid, examining personal shortcomings with religion as a reference point, rather than the cornerstone of the content.

ten tracks allows sunde ample time to flesh out his various ideas without becoming stagnant.  while operating on a rather small slice of the horizontal musical spectrum, sunde does wonders with the vertical headroom allotted on the theoretical axis, pulling from various palates and timbres to create an amalgamation of sound that is always inviting, never abrasive.  between the wandering bass lines of “dream baby,” the subtle but critical vocal harmonies and the warm, slow vibrato peppering organ and guitar tones throughout, shapes that kiss the lips of god is a wonderful soundtrack for hazy midwestern summer evenings.

8.1/10

out on a national tour to support their latest full-length, familiars, brooklyn’s resident heartbreakers the antlers stopped by the kexp studios to play a few new cuts.  while the tempos are often slow and peter silberman’s falsetto is still mournful, the new batch of tunes feels a touch uplifting, and features more trumpet than ever before.  “doppelganger” is a standout, but the performances of all songs in this set are admirable.  watch and listen below.

the music of alvvays suggests that the toronto quintet yearns for a sunnier location.  with a vocal deadpan that has drawn comparisons to best coast and jangly guitars that feel right at home alongside any song in real estate’s discography, the self-titled debut from alvvays has the capacity to become an awkward, feel-good hit of the summer kind of record.  alvvays drops next tuesday via polyvinyl and transgressive records, but you can stream it in its entirety here, courtesy of the fine folks at npr.

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