After last week’s heavy, personal heart-pouring-out Reason for the Repeat, it’s time for a little relief. Something lighter and airier. Time to breathe.
“Marry Me, Archie” from Toronto band Alvvays’ self-titled debut album has already been touted by some as the song of the summer. And with even just one listen, it’s not hard to understand why. This song sounds like a sun-bleached photograph, a nostalgia just out of reach; the vocals warm, but distant and washed-out. It has the innocence of a childhood summer memory of a simpler time, starting with the sweet sound of chirping birds… and of course, the name “Archie”, which is inextricably linked to a wholesome-50s-malt-shop-nostalgia fantasy.
But by its very nature, nostalgia isn’t just sunny snapshots of an uncomplicated past. There’s a ribbon of melancholy that weaves its way through the whole track. The way frontwoman Molly Rankin’s voice pleads, almost achingly BEGS for a commitment even though Archie has “expressed explicitly” his “contempt for matrimony.” In fact, it’s not the wedding itself that matters – she’s even willing to give up those traditional trappings of marriage – saying they can “forget the invitations, floral arrangements and bread makers.” All it would take is a trip to city hall to sign the requisite papers. It’s almost a childlike optimism, like if she could show him how things COULD be, if she could just get him to the right place, they could leave behind the troubled present with its student loans and gossipy friends and relatives and be idyllically happy forever. Like the Beach Boys once sang, starry-eyed before her, “if we could be married, then we’d be happy” – if they could just lock it down, maybe it would be possible to move forever into that unrealistically perfect, soft-focused memory world. That desire to recapture the simpler world you see in old photographs that doesn’t actually exist is what makes nostalgia so bittersweet.
Summer might be the closest we get to crossing into that world. It has a tendency to remind us of our youth while simultaneously making future consequences seem fuzzier, escapable, more abstract. And in these later days of summer, when reality starts to yellow the edges of those carefree hours – when in the back of your mind you might start remembering that summer isn’t endless, that maybe things WON’T be so sun-drenched and easy-peasy forever, that maybe they never were, that maybe you won’t end up marrying your proverbial “Archie” – this song allows you to wistfully prolong the dream. Despite summer’s (or summer love’s) impermanence, there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy the ride while it lasts. So get outside, swing your leg over your bicycle, let the breeze ripple your hair, your shirt… throw your arms out, laugh and ride and feel the warmth of the summer. Feel the warmth of the present – because before you know it, it’ll be the past. And who knows, maybe Archie WILL come around in the end.
(Also, place your bets now on how long it’ll take for this song to end up soundtracking the final kiss scene in a teen romcom. It can’t be that far off.)