Indie-pop upstart Alife Templeman has just dropped his long-awaited debut album, Mellow Moon. While the unrelenting optimism might be too rich for a full banquet, you have to doff your cap to the 19-year-old Bedfordshire native, as he’s proven himself to be a very accomplished songwriter at such a green age.
Templeman clearly has a very eclectic and extensive musical library, as he creates a dynamic and textured record brimming with catchy pop hooks. There are flecks of Jungle, Girlpool, Mac DeMarco and Tame Impala here, and as a whole, it’s a heady delight that I’m sure will be lapped up this summer.
The route to getting here has been a long one for Templeman. He started work on the album in early 2020, in the pre-pandemic days, not knowing what was around the corner personally and for the rest of us. However, two years later, he’s finally released his debut album, which is described as “landing somewhere between an otherworldly trip and a joy-filled ode to life back on earth.”
Of the new album, Templeman said: “It feels like I’m on a different planet. I’ve gone somewhere new and I’m discovering fire for the first time.” It’s something we can agree with, there’s a celestial quality to the album, and at points, there are hues of French legends Air, such as on ‘Take Some Time Away’, which has us intrigued about the path Templeman is to follow over the future.
In the future, Templeman could seemingly go one of two ways. Down a more heady route that meshes the sounds of his friends Jungle and the likes of Air, or a more pop-oriented one that is embodied by the super infectious tracks ‘Broken’ and ‘3D Feelings’. Mellow Moon has both assets on full display but whereas the pop hooks have a habit of snagging our enjoyment when so relentlessly cast into our listening experience, the more experimental richness of Templeman’s output is something to luxuriate in.
After reading Tepleman’s story surrounding the LP’s creation it’s clear that 90% of what he has done in life, experimental or otherwise, is intentional and that he possesses a great deal of self-awareness. At the start of the pandemic, he was forced to shield due to a respiratory issue first identified in childhood. Limiting his freedom to a great extent made him “very low”, which led to him taking antidepressants.
Being so young, he hadn’t opened up about his mental health much in the past, but he felt that ignoring such a significant facet of his life would be reductive and would amount to hiding a part of himself. “I think people assume that I’m this easy, outgoing person but there’s actually a lot more layers to me and this record shows that,” he opined. “Writing songs like ‘Broken’, ‘Take Some Time Away’ and ‘Mellow Moon’ were like therapy. It was me asking ‘What’s wrong with me?’ and ‘How am I going to get better?’ Just figuring things out in real time. I had therapy but there were still things unresolved in my mind. So I turned to music for the answers.”
Across the album’s 14 tracks, you understand that Templeman uses his expression as a means of therapy. The record twists and turns like any session with a therapist do. Even though there are a string of forgettable moments on the album, there are plenty of esteemed ones. The last three tracks are personal highlights, ‘Take Some Time Away’, ‘Mellow Moon’ and ‘Just Below The Above’, and musically, lyrically and production-wise, they’re a cut above the rest of the record.
‘Just Below The Above’ sounds like a mesh of late ’90s Radiohead, contemporary Girlpool and Air again, and Templeman’s haunting vocals are pretty touching. I hope he realises the potential he’s got with cuts such as these, as here he shows that he’s not just another artist for the TikTok generation. For a 19-year-old to sing, “do you ever wish you could turn your life around?” gives you a measure of the density of his intellect.
Although Mellow Moon is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, in many ways, it is a great success for Alfie Templeman. He’s laid the foundations for what is shaping up to be a stellar career. He’s got an uncanny ability to write songs that feel like grand epics but that stay within the expected duration of a radio-friendly track, and this could become a convenient tool moving forward. Keep an eye on him.