Simone Felice - Strangers
Simone Felice’s backstory is a genuinely interesting tale, not just a collection of buzzwords to build the mystique around his latest release. In his late teens he panhandled around New York before moving on to poetry, releasing his first collection in his early twenties. Felice also had two short fiction pieces published, and all this whilst playing in a punk band before then co-founding The Felice Brothers. After overcoming a childhood brain aneurysm that left him clinically dead, then having to have major heart surgery in 2010 to correct a related illness, he started creating his own music. The follow-up to his well-received debut is along similar lines, personal and intimate, but on a bigger canvas this time round.
A triumph of songwriting above all else, Strangers is both uplifting and heart wrenching, music to make you feel. On the feel-good side of things is lead single ‘Molly-O!’, with its simple sing along chorus (“Heeeeeyyyyyy Molly-O!”) and partially spoken verses, it’s a superb start. ‘If You Go To LA’ switches things up immediately, its plaintive vocal and lyrics (“If you go to LA / Be sure to ask her if she’s been sleeping OK / There’s so many furious kinds of pills up in them bloody hills”) contrasting with the opener, as does the thoughtful ‘Running Through My Head’ with its uplifting gospel-y coda. There’s the powerfully emotive ‘Our Lady Of The Gun’, about war and religion, and a key change at the centre of ‘Heartland’ is a subtle example of Felice’s skill with the feel of a song, effortlessly changing the tone to something more hopeful. Though the production feels more layered than on his debut, lush and deep rather than simple and sparse, it’s still restrained, and all the more impressive for it.