Alfie Templeman’s music has long treasured the power of escapism. Since the release of his 2018 psych-leaning debut EP, ‘Like An Animal’, he has been in a perpetually transitional state, searching for his own musical freedom via a slew of extended releases, culminating in last year’s retro-inspired ‘Forever Isn’t Long Enough’ mini-album. The Bedfordshire singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has often imagined his work as a direct portal to other realms, as if, through his gorgeously tender, pastel-coloured indie-pop, he could create a better reality. “I live in mystery / My world is one big dream,” he sang on 2021 single ‘Film Scene Daydream’.
Templeman’s early teenage years centred around learning how to play as many instruments as he put his mind to. With the ability to play the drums, mandolin and sitar, among others, his impressive determination has taken him to huge slots at Reading & Leeds and Mexico City’s Corona Capital festival. Last November, he even caught the attention of funk legend Nile Rodgers, who was so impressed by Templeman’s experimental indie sound that he invited him to a jam session at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios last November.
But as explored in his recent Ebb And Flow mini-documentary, years of self-doubt and anxiety struggles have started to alter the 19-year-old’s perspective. His long-awaited debut album, ‘Mellow Moon’ juggles the difficulty of finding fulfilment in the face of despair with a quiet undercurrent of optimism for brighter days ahead. Gently distorted closer, ‘Just Below The Above’, underscores the record’s aims succinctly through repeated affirmations: “Stay today and we’ll float away / After all these years we’re still okay.”
Filled with equal amounts of sunshine and sadness, this disposition runs through ‘Mellow Moon’. The album carefully twists and turns through Templeman’s headspace as he searches for answers to an escape from the doldrums of modern life, flickering between loss (‘Do It’) and reassurance (the buoyant, mood-lifting ‘Colour Me Blue’). Even beneath ‘Candyfloss’, a song that sounds so bright and beachy that sun practically glints off its interlocking keys, there’s a restlessness, and a sense that the feeling of hope he’s describing might only last for a fleeting moment.
Out of necessity, the sonic experimentation is braver, too, as if to emphasise the intensity of the feelings that Templeman examines throughout. The songs are immediate and involving: there’s real angst between the synth stabs on the glistening ‘Broken’, his biggest and boldest pop moment to date, its rippling keys giving way to a deliciously juddering chorus. A squalling guitar solo rips through ‘Galaxy’, while ‘3D Feelings’, an irresistible disco epic, is made up of strobe-lit, chunky beats to stomp along to on an arcade dance machine.
‘Leaving Today’, which takes a slithering bassline and builds it into a gentle shoegaze ditty, breathes in a way few other songs on ‘Mellow Moon’ do, a record obsessed with layering as many riffs and rhythms atop each other as possible. “Just sit back with the sun on my face / ‘Cause I can’t give my whole life away,” Templeman sings, emerging from the storm with the realisation that, sometimes, going through hardship gives life its colour.
- Release date: May 27
- Record label: Chess Club Records