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 trying his hand at poetry, releasing his first collection in his early twenties. Felice also had some short fiction pieces published, played in a punk band and co-founded folk-dash-country outfit The Felice Brothers. A childhood brain aneurysm had left him clinically dead, while treatment on a related heart condition followed 2010. He's a man who doesn't need to go far for stories. Strangers is the follow-up to his well-received debut and 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. This is music to make you feel. On the feel-good side of things is lead single ‘Molly-O!’, with its simple, singalong 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.
The powerfully emotive ‘Our Lady Of The Gun’ touches on war and religion, proving Felice has no issue in tackling the big issues. A key change at the centre of ‘Heartland’ is a subtle example of his skill with mood, 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. Strangers? Meet Simone Felice - he's your new best friend.