When Toronto trio Alvvays headlined the Denver Underground Music Showcase in 2018, their crisp delivery seemed to belie the “dream-pop” label that had defined the band’s first two releases. The arrival of Blue Rev (Polyvinyl) suggests the band may have been mischaracterized all along. The songs are riff-heavy, clever jewels that have had five years to mature since vocalist Molly Rankin began writing them after 2017’s Antisocialites, only to have recording sessions delayed until 2021.

“Pharmacist” opens the album with a little lo-fi muddiness, but the remaining 13 tracks are shots of 3-minute ecstasy. Rankin’s plaintive voice is the perfect vehicle for songs like “After the Earthquake” and “Tom Verlaine.” 

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Bonny Light Horseman, Rolling Golden Holy (37d03d) – Anais Mitchell first formed this trio with Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman in the early days of the pandemic, but their debut album consisted largely of re-imagined traditional songs. This second outing is composed of original works, and feels like a bonus gift, since Mitchell released her latest solo album in 2022. Songs like “Comrade Sweetheart” bear her imprimatur, but the contributions of her partners should not be ignored, as evidenced by Johnson’s role in “California.” Often, the three emulate leaders of the early 1960s folk revival.

Pixies, Doggerel (Infectious Music/BMG) – Fans who never forgave Frank Black when Kim Deal left the original Pixies now have to tolerate the longevity of Pixies V2. Maybe the newer band will never reach the heights of Surfer Rosa, but Black seems not to care. The newer band is slowly moving to a country-rock feel, and Black’s tenor resembles Neil Young’s on occasion. Those finding such a shift a sacrilege should be ignored, as this is a different Pixies with a different set of geolocation coordinates.