Exotico by Temples–Album Review
Exotico by Temples–Album Review
Temples, the neo-psychedelic band from Kettering, England, released their fourth album, Exotico, on April 14th. Led by lead vocalist/guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Walmsley, the quartet has been producing interesting, neo-psychedelic pop-rock since they dropped their debut, Sun Structures, in early 2014. Since then, they’ve added two members: keyboardist/guitarist Adam Smith and drummer Rens Otting and continued to evolve sonically and lyrically.
Exotico was produced by Sean Lennon, whom they met at Desert Daze in 2019 and who produced the band’s 2020 single “Paraphernalia”. It’s evident from the first listen that the album has some themes running throughout. As it turns out, Exotico is a concept album about a mythical island. During the making of the album, the band apparently learned about the phenomenon of phantom
Exotico is a concept album about a mythical island.
islands, or islands that had once been included on maps, but found to be non-existent. Bagshaw and his troops devised the record around the notion of a mystical and utopic island. In fact, the album has a mystical and majestic, almost anthemic, feel to it.
It’s a generally uplifiting album—poppy and catchy with a thumping rhythm throughout. Exotico is quite danceable, and it would be easy to draw comparisons to Tame Impala, yet it manages to stay true to its neo-psychedelic intent. The performances are ultra-tight and technically proficient with a robotic feel to it that hints at a Kraftwerk influence. With Lennon’s crystalline production, the album seems at times too perfect—as if it exists outside the scope of rock n’ roll.
Some of the songs (“Cicada”, “Meet Your Maker”, and the title track) have a Middle-Eastern feel to them, and this adds to the dreaminess one might expect regarding a mystical, non-existent island. Additionally, there are classical overtones throughout, which lend the album an airy, celestial vibe.
The album kicks off with “Liquid Air”, a breezy tune that immediately sets the tone with wind chimes and the sound of wind. This track has a mellow, almost easy-listening vibe and a beautiful piano and synth fade-out.
The second track, “Gamma Rays”, was the first single released from the album and features a lilting melody line that contrasts wonderfully with the throbbing beat. The synth part in this song is sure to be remembered as a classic riff. In the chorus, Bagshaw makes mention of a “midnight sun”, which is the title of an album by one of Sean Lennon’s projects, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Coincidence? Maybe. Also, the track clocks in at exactly 4:20. Coincidence? Probably.
“Cicada” is a fast-paced, dance-able track driven by synths that sound a lot like violins. The song appears to be about, well, cicadas—the locust-like insects that make an earsplitting sound in broods. While cicadas are certainly not exclusive to exotic isles, they do seem to fit the theme here. Toward the end of the track, the familiar instrumentation drops out and a woman’s voice, rumored to be that of Sean Lennon’s long-time romantic and musical partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl, can be heard warbling amidst crystal keys, transporting us briefly to a mystical dreamland.
“Oval Stones” has a poppy, sing-a-long style with whistling keyboards while “Slow Days”, which is not a slow song, serves up a sweet slack-key guitar solo that brings us back to that island feel.
The slightly harder-edged “Crystal Hall” features vocal harmonies that sound a bit like Lennon. In fact, several of the harmonies on the album sound like Lennon is among the backing vocalists.
Although the reverb is cranked up on most of the album’s lead vocals, the lyrics are strikingly distinguishable in certain parts. On “Giallo”, which is a word meaning “a genre of murder mystery fiction that often contains slasher, thriller, psychological horror, and sexploitation”, the surreal lyrics are clear: “Magic eye staring back at me/ Magic eye watching over me”. What does it mean? Perhaps that’s part of the mystery.
“Meet Your Maker” features folk instrumentation and the familiar mystical, Middle-Eastern feel.
The third and most recently released single, “Afterlife”, is one of the album’s highlights, despite being tucked away as the penultimate song on this 16-track offering. Set to a pulsating rhythm, Bagwell’s soaring vocals hit falsetto range as he croons the soul-stirring mantra, “See you in the afterlife”.
“Moment of Time”, at 1:33, is a short, but impactful outro with a space-age, tropical vibe set to a bossanova beat with a scratchy effect, as if it’s playing on a decades-old vinyl record.
Exotico is a very solid record but doesn’t quite reach the heights that this band seems capable of hitting. If anything, it’s too long, which spreads the great moments a little too thin. Still, it’s a quality album that maintains Temples’ status as one of the top bands of the neo-psych sub-genre.