Alpine - Zurich EP
Thu 11th Nov, 2010 in Music Reviews
Melbourne’s Alpine believe in truth in advertising. From the hissing insistence of the opening drums on Heartlove, there’s an aching Scandinavian austerity to their sound. As the drums are sheened in angular guitar strokes and the vocals take everything aloft, it’s hard to get past the arctic patina that covers everything. Its an aesthetic perfectly captured on the EP’s cover, a beach scene filtered in white and photoshopped to resemble a tundra.
It’s a dynamic that really sums up the band – like a sunny day in the arctic, there’s a coldness that the songs overwhelm. While the vocals summon images of Alison Goldfrapp at her most approachable, it’s the commanding synergy of the rhythm section punctuated by understated melodies that really make Alpine worth persevering for.
That’s not to say it’s a hard album to listen to. Opening track and lead single Heartlove pulsates like some kind of Nordic CSS, ditching the South American summer vibes without losing the fire in the belly. It’s a well-shaped pop song that slides comfortably into TooSafe, among the first tracks to bring them onto radios across the country. Its gentle lilt conceals its complexity, the band keeping everything together so close you can’t see the daylight. It’s a beautiful trick – everything on this EP feels seamless until you start looking for the wires, and you end up appreciating it even more after that.
Villages is a welcome change from the opening tracks, its relentlessly gentle march giving all the elements enough room to breathe and really exposing the fact you can’t see the strings in the early exchanges. When it bursts into a surprisingly vibrant and full chorus, it’s a welcome tonal change from the gently-gently or full-force charges of the earlier tracks. It stands out because of a quiet-loud-quiet dynamic, executing the basics flawlessly and coming off as the first track you’ll seek out on a re-listen.
Their liner notes encourage comparisons to Lykke Li, The xx and even Feist. While the professional sheen and emotional detachment on show on the Zurich EP are akin to all those artists, there’s a debt to the polished twee pop of The Cardigans that Alpine needs to be pay as well. While Alpine step outside that act’s sunniness and aren’t always soaked in radio-friendly hooks, the songs will settle in your head long enough to keep you intrigued.
The band are set to step out on a run of tours across the country, including a few city shows alongside The Naked and Famous. Don’t let their icy name and image cool your heels – they’re an act well worth following, with an impressive repertoire sure to follow this delightfully focused EP.