As if embodying their namesake, musically ‘elevated’ Alpines truly are very highly elevated when it comes to their musical know-how. Composed of singer/songwriter/pianist Catherine Pockson and Bob Matthews on keys and guitar, the duo are a class act with impeccable musical standards. Their latest album ‘Another River’ is a surefire smash best associated with soul, popsynth and chill, offering listeners an almost angelic and yet ineludibly dark collection of repeat-worthy tracks.
The music is an anomaly of a musical orgy. While it won’t be said that Alpines are inspired by the likes of Sia, Lorde or Alicia Keys, their second album is redolent of such artists’ emotion and musical exclusivity.
There is something to be said for Pockson’s vocals, almost operatic in her ability to effortlessly journey between contralto and soprano with cautiously tender vocal trills for tonal effect. ‘Stay’ is a stand out track, opening with Pockson’s heavenly haunting voice, leading to its soulful chorus. Opening with the poignant “the past is dead and gone”, ‘How It Hurts’ is rightly met with mournful vocals, solemnly accompanied by pensive piano.
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Furthermore, Pockson’s pain is fragilely expressed in title track ‘Another River’ through the low modal vocal plea “I’ve been losing myself… I don’t think I could cry another river for you” – a sentiment undoubtedly shared and felt by listeners. In contrast, the favourably repetitive and assertive chorus in ‘Love and Money’ methodically melts the listener’s ear: “This ain’t about the love / it ain’t about the money… gotta run it by you…” sings Pockson assuredly with warm, buttery vocals.
‘Heaven’ features a beat suggestive of a Maori tribal song, rather uncommon of mainstream pop today. The seemingly distorted deep male backing vocals appropriately support Pockson’s smooth, layered harmonies, while “You got this heaven about you, baby / you got my soul in your hands…” reiterates the celestial theme embraced throughout the album. Similarly, ‘Completely’ depicts its own rhythmic uniqueness. Not only does the distorted beat maintain rhythm, but the beat box-style rap layered subtly in the background drives the composition, making way for the chorus’ velvet wailing: “You make it seem so easy / the way you have me completely.”
Interestingly, Pockson and Matthews remain humble throughout, ensuring consumer relatability; evidently this cleverly juxtaposes their newfound hierarchal position as ‘musical royalty’: an honor their growing fan base has attributed to them over time.
Overall, ‘Another River’ ticks all the right boxes expected of a chart-topping album. Both Pockson and Matthews’ equal talents blend nicely to create the ‘anywhere, anytime, track list. Accepting its potential longevity is due to the originality and poetic lyrics featured on this album, it is also impressive to note that the duo have proven their capability of accomplishing what most artists struggle to achieve, particularly in their formative years: ‘Another River’ is a beautiful amalgamation of genre, creating the unique sound that is Alpines, and distinguishing it as the standout release of 2016.