5 Track, LP (2010, Ivy League)
Alpine wears its disengagement like a badge of honour. The Melbourne six-piece sounds like it has half that many members, with Phoebe Baker and Lou James eschewing instruments to focus on vocals that aren’t so enthusiastic. Combine that with vague lyrics and low-key music, and these songs can resemble a mirage. That doesn’t have to be a weakness, however. On this demo-harvesting debut, Alpine evokes the daydream-y distance of Blonde Redhead and Warpaint, both ideal signposts for meandering indie rock.
The lead single and an upbeat anomaly, ‘Heartlove’, stows Baker and James’ faint singing under sawing post-punk guitar that ultimately makes for a weird fit. The unrushed tempo of the remaining songs does the band more favours, although they’re not recorded with clarity in mind. And the guitars are often pushed above the vocals, even when quiet surrender is the goal. ‘Too Safe’ has an effective refrain in “Feel so safe with you”, while ‘Tough Skin’ shifts from an acoustic-guitar opening into a gently dance-y confessional. Its lyrics are appealingly dark – “All you see are bloodstains all over the floor” – but the actual story gets lost with the vocals.
Second single ‘Villages’ is more deliberate, assembling itself bit by bit. Lightly brushed with harmonies, ‘Icypoles’ nears pop bliss despite (or because of) somewhat twee lyrics about bike riding in “my icypole summer”. The newest of these five songs, it’s the most unique and self-contained, standing on its own where the rest fade into one another. From here, Alpine could really go either way: the next record might reveal something profound, or it might just turn to vapour.
by Doug Wallen