There's an element of reticence to the music of the Canadian group Alvvays.

Most of their songs feature protagonists who are in love but uncertain whether or not they should act on it, so they fret and deliberate and send hints and winks instead of proud declarations. On "Party Police," frontwoman Molly Rankin sighs, "I never really know what's on your mind / Is it ever me?" Even their most forthright song, "Marry Me, Archie," is framed as a heartsick desire rather than a sure thing. It's not hard to imagine the whole scenario taking place inside Rankin's head rather than in real life.

So it was a surprise when they opened their Hype Hotel set Wednesday afternoon (March 18) at SXSW with a roar of guitar and Rankin belting defiantly against it. That was the tenor of their entire set, which radiated both power and confidence. On "The Agency Group," the guitars clanged and echoed, their shimmer and sheen sounding like '60s jangle-pop but amped well into the red. "Marry Me, Archie" became a swirling shoegaze number, the guitars churning and groaning, Rankin's voice submerged in echo. And "Back Seat" was tumbling and radiant, guitars spinning dizzy pirouettes while Ranking skipped gleefully between them.

The power had a transformational effect on the songs, replacing coyness with confidence. When they finally arrived at "Party Police" and Rankin sang, "You can just stay here with me," it didn’t sound like a gentle plea so much as an outright demand.

Brought to you by Mazda, official automobile sponsor of #HypeON.

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