Sometimes timing is everything. Alfie Neale’s debut E.P has perhaps one of the more unintentionally apt titles of all the releases to drop in recent weeks, even if his concern is more personal complications than global apocalypse. Either way, If My World Falls Apart is his most ambitious project to date, conceived and realised by Neale and his trusted coterie of collaborators, while James Berkeley of Brighton neo-soul/jazz outfit Yakul has brought his production sheen to bear.

If My World Falls Apart sees a further refinement of Alfie Neale’s pop and soul sensibilities, distilling a solid piece of work on which Neale reflects with honesty on the last two years of his life. He explains: “I think the general theme of If My World Falls Apart is how we rely on other people. The title track is about how I have grown to realise the importance of having people around me, something I didn’t always appreciate.

The five tracks all fall open like pages from a diary as Alfie invites you to walk alongside him through the peaks and pitfalls of his life. The title track segues almost seamlessly into Elevator, a song about forgetting who you are for a night, waking up the next day and realising how important it is to hold on to the things in life that make you feel good and define you.

“[Vices] is one of [Neale’s] best vocal performances to date; the backing vocal ad-libs enough to raise the hairs on anyone’s arms.”

Vices alternates between carefree snapshots of daily life, observed from Neale’s time living with his best friends, and a sweeping, euphoric chorus in which Neale goes widescreen, imploring his nearest and dearest to “stay around so I can reach a higher ground”. Vices is one of typically genre-hopping Neale’s more straight-forward songs, but also one of his most effective. It’s also one of his best vocal performances to date; the backing vocal ad-libs enough to raise the hairs on anyone’s arms.

Alright is a funk-workout departure which sees Alfie sending himself up. “You need to take a lot of what I say with a pinch of salt,“ he tells us. “The song is like the opposite of the story of how me and my girlfriend got together. I’m pretending that I’m some sort of smooth, loving guy when in reality I’m completely not.” There is even a cheesy key change, just for the hell of it.

“[Stepping Stones is] the confident sound of a man impatient for success while acknowledging that he can’t make it on his own.”

Final song Stepping Stones has already garnered almost 60,000 Spotify streams with its seductive silky and soulful disco stylings. Bringing the theme of the E.P. full circle, Alfie gives a nod of gratitude to the people who have had his back on his musical journey to date. “I’m so tired of painting pictures in your mind, why don’t we live it for a while?” he asks; the confident sound of a man impatient for success while acknowledging that he can’t make it on his own.

If My World Falls Apart is the announcement of Alfie Neale’s arrival as an act to be seriously reckoned with. While his immediately-recognisable vocal still shimmers with blue-eyed soul, this E.P. heralds the arrival proper of a mature artist who creates thoughtful and coherent work.

“It’s just pop with many flavours, really,” says Alfie Neale self-effacingly.

You need to take that with a very large pinch of salt.

9/10

Out Now

Words: Iain Dalgleish @idalgleishmusic

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