Simone Felice: Strangers (Team Love)

Felice Brothers alumnus delivers stunning new collection

Released Mar 24th, 2014 via Team Love / By Clementine Lloyd
Simone Felice: Strangers (Team Love) Musicians have a handy knack of traversing the hinterland of love. It is always a hinterland, as it doesn’t tend to delve into the mundane everyday of a standard relationship, just the dizzying highs and tormenting lows, the lust and the pain. A beginning, and an end. It’s a tale as old as time, music and the discourse of love and ambivalence go hand in hand. Walking on the sand.

Simone Felice has this all wrapped up with the latest studio album Strangers, a record which marvels; "Isn't it wild how, when it comes to matters of the heart, we can start out so fanatical, so certain, only to end up as strangers in the end? Remote even to ourselves over time, strangers in the mirror...”

And oh! Ain’t that just so? Which is exactly why this is such an accessible musical foray. Mr Felice, of The Felice Brothers fame, uses his gorgeous vocals, sensitivity to the human condition and beautiful turn of phrase to conjure an aching beauty. If you love thoughtful arrangements that stretch over you like warm silk, you’re in for a treat.

Tracks like ‘Gettysburg’ and ‘Bastille Day’ tend to set up the idea of love with the backdrop of violence and revolution. The former track has a plucky, tumbling rhythm, banjo strings conversing with the thrumming beat as the chorus of Brothers send the arrangement into the clouds. Lines like “Just a young American, another pretty slave/Tryin’ to get to heavens mall, like all the billboards day” echo Felice’s exploration of the death of The American Dream, while others the overall sense places you into the ‘let it be’ era, and the grace to look at what was and let it go- “You were trying to teach me then/To damn the heavy world.”

‘The Best That Money Can Buy’ has a biting quality, marking the “kingdom of slaves and radio waves” in the tale against the lilting riff and climbing saxophone and violin strings, sprouting like vines reach for the sun. It’s a neat little package that relaxes every part of your body.

‘Our Lady Of The Gun’ is a forceful charmer, hard strummed strings and a cacophony of hand claps alternating against booming stamps sounds like gunfire. Leah Siegel’s high Kate Bush-esque vocals set against the silky deep tones of Simone Felice makes the track sound like a prayer.

Diving headfirst into Keatsian poetry territory ‘Heartland’ is arguably the most beautiful song on the record. Simmering through the snare overtop low, elongated synth notes creates this urgent atmosphere as the pace picks up in increments, as Felice softly calls “I want to know what it means/To be in love, in the heartland”. The tentative energy, almost bubbling over, is such a delight to hold. The hushed choral backing vocals set the whole arrangement off beautifully. ‘Bye Bye Palenville’ is similarly romantic in its sentiment, ballad-like almost, slowly turned out keys and trumpets harmonized against brushed steel and skins. It is aching for a sing along.

But it is not all aching beauty and biting commentary. Opener ‘Molly-O!’ has a sultans of swing element that feels good inside. Written by Felice as “a tongue-in-cheek salute/requiem to the itinerant panhandler I was as a kid, [and] an exercise in not taking one's early sins or one's current self too seriously”, its trumpets and slammed drumbeat keeps you swaying and singing ‘til the last.

While the best way to catch Simone Felice is live, the best thing about his records is that it demands little of you, whilst capturing your attention at the same time. Each track, whether it be slow and soft or upbeat with choral amorousness, is a little bit sexy. As a lamenter of the death of the American Dream, which colours his novels and some of his music, he does so with a gentle wry smile. Not with the Vehemence of Hunter S Thompson, but subtly infiltrating your ears with questions. His music isn’t a vehicle for these words. Its just an added bonus. The real feat is his sensitive and calming arrangements. Though simple on the surface, they beg to be listened to again and again.