After we released our list of 2014’s best albums, I noticed a handful of commenters digitally shaking their fists at us for completely failing to mention Alvvays, a young, Toronto-based band that put out its debut self-titled EP earlier this year. We’ve recently touched on the importance of year-end lists as an opportunity to share our experiences with others, and my discovery of Alvvays makes me happy to be part of the ritual.
Alvvays, which was released this past July, is a blast of summery bliss with charms that remain intact even amid the winter doldrums. The band’s sound is a throwback, of sorts, with a jangly surf-rock guitar driving most of the tracks, accompanied by singer Molly Rankin’s sweet, spirited melodies. While it has a sunny demeanor, it’s the hints of darkness that make Alvvays so captivating. The album kicks things off with “Adult Diversion,” where innocent daydreams take a sly turn: “One more cocktail / And I’m on your trail.” It’s a playful callback to Blondie’s predatory “One Way Or Another” that highlights the band members’ intimate familiarity with the decades of pop-rock that came before them. Alvvays funnels its knowledge of musical history through a voice that is distinctly modern, blending together self-confidence and self-deprecation, often in the same line. On the EP’s standout single, “Archie, Marry Me,” Rankin sings, “Too late to go out / Too young to stay in”—it’s a declaration of uncertainty that perfectly encapsulates the hazy space between youth and adulthood. The band members may feel like they’re trapped in a pre-maturity purgatory, but they’re absolutely thriving in it. [Cameron Scheetz]
I’m honestly a little uncomfortable with how much I love New York City’s Little Pie Company. It’s not my first unhealthy obsession with baked goods, so its not unusual for me to have the occasional dream about LPC’s pies. But as a man in his mid-30s, I can’t help but feel like my priorities are misplaced if I have no compunction about paying $40 to have a pie shipped to me, but revert to my miserly ways when it comes to spending money on basically anything else. I’ll dither for months about getting a pair of shoes or a new sweater, but I’m prone to buying the sour cream apple walnut pie—easily the best I’ve ever had—on impulse. (You’d think the impulse would be dulled by the tedium of an online order form, but no such luck.) Between LPC’s apple walnut, pecan, and key lime pies, I don’t imagine I’ll break the habit anytime soon. I’ll continue to be the dude who richly invests in pie, then walks out of the house looking like I should be starring in a community play as a character named “Hobo Jack.” But, for what it’s worth, I’m slightly ashamed. [Joshua Alston]
This isn’t the most profound Staff Pick I’ve ever written, but it’s possibly the most mesmerizing: What Colour Is It? is a web-based clock, and the background color changes according to the hex code formed by the time. That is, it’s currently 15:04:29, so the background is hex code #150429, a lovely midnight blue. There’s not any information about this project readily visible on the site, and I’m not inclined to look: It’s just a bit of silliness to be appreciated by anybody who’s struggled to find the hex code for that perfect green, or for people who like to stare into their monitors until they reach an altered state of consciousness. It’s now bright blue o’clock, or 15:10:58. [Laura M. Browning]