In the internet age, mature and fully-formed music can come from nowhere and stun instantly. And so it is with Winchester’s Temples of Youth – an electro-soul duo crafting well-worked and subtly smart neo-pop. Consisting of Paul Gumma’s precision hooks on guitar and Jo Carson’s synths, drums and, crucially, her rounded, emotive vocals, Temples of Youth have made quite the impression during their live dates, and previous singles ‘Amber’ and ‘Churches’ have met with critical success from the likes of Clash and Wonderland. Now comes their debut, self-titled EP.
Opener ‘Churches’, with its low-key guitar chords and bluesy lyrics sees the band at their most XX-ish. But as the song grows, it turns into something more than a mere facsimilie. With lyrics dealing with isolation – based on a real life experience of rejection from a religious group – the song’s sound also evokes the outsider-pop of Lonelady, Everything But The Girl and London Grammar.
Bluesy pop is a risky gamble: too much and it can sound maudlin. But on ‘Dunes’, the EP’s third track, Temples of Youth hit the sweet spot somewhere around the Chris Isaak-Lana Del Rey mark. As guitar notes roll like sea-waves on a winter’s day around bitter-sweet vocals, it’s a song that’s both chilling and warmly comforting – like the last, bright, dying embers of a fire.
‘Sometime’ is a gentle pop ballad with the feel of the better end of ’80s synth-pop in the manner of Talk Talk or Tears for Fears, whilst closer ‘Twice’ is even more stripped-back and, with its gently picked guitar, shows the influence of Nick Drake and Bon Iver – both cited as favourites of Jo and Paul’s in interviews.
But it’s second track ‘Amber’ that’s the standout. A sweeping epic, with synths in the cinematic mould of Vangelis, it invites the listener to dive into a world of “empires falling”, carried onward by a subtle yet driving guitar line and Jo’s voice at its very best. By the song’s synth and drum outro, you’ll be yearning to hear it again.
Live, the pair cut an impossibly cool swathe and are totally at home on stage amidst the dry ice. That feeling isn’t lost here, either. Ice-cold but with a certain confidence to back it up, Temples of Youth is an excellent introduction to a band whose grown-up pop music is primed for worship in 2018.
Temples Of Youth is out now. And make sure you catch the band in all their glory, headlining for us at The Finsbury this Friday 8th December!