Ten Fé, five lads from London whose name is Spanish for ‘have faith’, make melancholic, melodic indie-pop laced with world-weariness, as frontmen Leo Duncan and Ben Moorhouse sigh through songs about heartache and regret throughoutout their assured 11-track second album, ‘Future Perfect, Present Tense’.
True: there’s nothing as immediately beautiful here as ‘Elodie’, the knockout single from their 2017 debut, recorded when the band consisted only of the aforementioned duo (they filled out to a five-piece on tour). That track epitomised Ten Fé perfectly, the moody piano arrangement sounding like something from a lost drivetime classic, while the lyrics were just the right side of lovelorn mush: “Giving up on love, that’s not my style.” Yet there are winsome melodies and fractured confessions here that will surely soften the hardest of hearts.
This second album’s lead single, ‘Won’t Happen’, picks up where ‘Elodie’ left off, its minimalist acoustic guitar chords leaving space for the emotional lyrics: “I know you won’t stop until you’ve got your two cents… But if I wanna wreck my head, I’ll do it myself.” Try not to notice that the opening sounds like ‘Wonderwall’. And ‘No Night Last Forever’ sees the benefit of those extra band members, the guitar unspooling with a wash of synth that nods to their ‘80s soft-rock influences (Moorhouse and Duncan have spoken of their love for ‘Joshua Tree’-era U2, for instance).
Yet that hints at the shortcomings of ‘Future Perfect, Present Tense’: sometimes it’s a little too soft for its own good. And they’re really asking for it when they have a song called ‘Coasting’, especially when it adheres so slavishly to their sonic template: jangling percussion, acoustic guitar, aching lyrics (“Don’t come and haunt me”) and the singers’ overlapping vocals. Still, there are interesting deviations this time around: ‘Echo Park’ is a fun take on ’70s California MOR pop, while the piano ballad ‘To Lie Here Is Enough’ proves the musicians’ versatility.
‘Future Perfect, Present Tense’ is well-crafted indie-pop that unintentionally lives up to its title: Ten Fé have a great record in them, though it’s perhaps still to come. For now, this is an evocative mood piece, like a faded polaroid from a bittersweet age.