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A Pop Music ‘Oasis’

The Alpines’ latest LP will add excitement to your suburban existence.

Of all the things my father did for me, perhaps the best was that he was a miserable failure when it came to his attempts to kill me. The cottonmouth submerged before I could grab it. I was able to steady the 3-wheeler before I went tumbling down the hill. The bullet went to my right and lodged in the door rather than in my kidney. (Wait, what? It’s either horrible or anodyne. Be imaginative!) In any case, Dad really believed in the whole “what does not kill you makes you stronger” adage. Except when it came to music. Then, he was less focused. He would rock some jams that grade school kids should not have been listening to, like the Doors’ version of “Gloria.” Then, maybe some Animals or some Stones. Then his mixtapes would devolve into some contemporary pop for a minute. And not just any contemporary pop. It was always contemporary pop featuring a female vocalist and love and misunderstanding and betrayal and forgiveness and sadness. Those mixtapes, though maybe not the second best thing he did for me, still rate pretty high up there.

And now I’ve become my father, though I mostly abstain from trying to kill my daughters, even as I frequently tell them to rub some dirt on it. No matter how severe the bleeding. Regardless, I do get down on some soulful tunes.

Some may attribute my love of what can be described as baby-making music to my apparent love of making babies. But I’m good with three daughters, thank you very much, so that’s not precise. At the same time, I do wonder why grooving on sensuous beats featuring a soaring and growling Siren is seen as the opposite of masculinity rather than the standard. No matter. One of the benefits of age is being able to appreciate both Van Halen and Chvrches without caring what the dad in the minivan loaded with kids next to you thinks. Because he has a minivan and you have a V8. Sure, it’s a soccer mom Volvo SUV, but it doesn’t have sliding doors and you can carve through corners.

But, seriously, one benefit to marriage is there’s someone else around to drive the minivan should the number of critters require it. Transportation is not mentioned in the dad handbook. You may regardless choose to drive a vehicle with some utilitarian and family-friendly offerings, but make sure its MPG is horrible, the muffler isn’t quite doing its job, and the sound system is solid.

Because without a solid sound system, how can you crank up the tunes? Especially if Amazon screwed up and sent you a new release one month before its release date.

Aside: Dear Amazon – When I pre-order a physical CD, I’m ordering a CD rather than just waiting for the release date to download it. I want uncompressed files and the higher-quality audio they offer. That’s why I want the CD. Even though I’m impatient, burning me a disk from the compressed and downloadable MP3s and sending me said burned disk is not worth $10. Thanks.

Having said that, new music a month ahead of schedule! In this case, it was “Oasis,” the debut full-length from UK duo Alpines. If you’ve heard of Alpines, good on you. If not, wait for it. They’re not exactly new and “Tidal Wave,” the delicious drum and bass collaboration with Sub Focus, is not nearly banal enough to compete with One Direction. So you’re forgiven if it hasn’t made its way to your local radio station DJ-bot.

But whether or not you’ve heard of them is immaterial. What is material is that Alpines are on the cusp. And they’re not on the cusp because of some marketing gimmick, but because they make seriously good serious baby-making music. Kind of.

“Oasis,” while not a concept album, does have a strong undercurrent running from start to finish. And that undercurrent is not about glorious instability or even boring stability. It’s definitely not about making babies. It is about a woman done wrong. It’s soulful and rhythmic. Catherine Pockson’s vocals traverse the full mezzo-soprano or maybe the coloratura mezzo-soprano range, no one is going to hire me to teach theory. Regardless, the perfect highs are beautifully punctuated by the aforementioned low growls. And there’s no unnecessary warbling all over her range. Pockson shows off by showing restraint. Bandmate Bob Matthews traverses a similar path. He provide lush soundscapes that both complement and support Pockson without intruding into the final product.

By way of example, the first single,and title track, underpinned by a Caribbean-tinged beat, rolls along in an almost relaxing fashion. Save the chorus.

In this oasis,
where the lines blur,
when you’re with me,
you’re thinking of her.

I don’t change the disk because my kids are in the car. Unless the amount of profanity disturbs even my own generally indifferent frame. But I will admit that when I glanced in the backseat and saw my 6 year old and 4 year old daughters singing along with a that chorus, I thought, “I’m glad I don’t have to explain that!” Then I still didn’t change the disk.

Because “Oasis” has a story to tell. And even though my daughters are too young to grok it, we can at least agree on listening to it. I’m not an autocrat. I will always turn off Company Flow or Wavves and switch over to some Speedy Ortiz or Black Hi-Lighter, solid choices both, to placate the unholy trinity. And to avoid some profanity. What I will not do is drive with “Hakuna Matata” drilling into the back of my skull. And not just because I refuse to hakuna matata or even because The Lion King, let’s be real, is a terrible movie. As a father, I have a duty to teach. And part of that teaching is that not all music is created equal.

Despite what some with exceedingly poor tastes claim, music is quantifiable, even if such quantifications are subjective. Some subjections are ridiculously and patently false. When it comes to Alpines, though, we can get objective.

Alpines aren’t perfect. They’re fonder of house than I am, for example. But even with those imperfections, and those house tunes do, dammit, grow on you, “Oasis” is coherent. Confrontation to vacillation to acceptance to never mind, I’ve got agency and I can choose whether or not we, the paired and not royal variety, remains.

A famous conservative once decreed that our duty was to stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!” And, at the time, that was true. But life moves apace and new truths emerge. Now, we are not to stand athwart history, but to find beauty where it exists and celebrate it, perpetuate it, inspire others to replicate it. And as we are hesitant to embrace pop culture, pop culture is never going to cease trying to embrace us.

In other words, we can retreat and teach our kids solely via tough love. And hopefully not kill them in the process. Or we can occasionally just share some music together. Especially when that music is grounded in humanity and the fact that life and love, even if the soundtrack is smooth, can be jarring.

Stream “Oasis” here. Order it here

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