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Simone Felice - Strangers (Review)

Simone Felice, Strangers

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SIMONE Felice delivers his sophomore solo album and continues to impress, for the most part, as both singer and songwriter.

A 10-song collection that was recorded in the Catskills with guest artists The Felice Brothers, Leah Siegel, and Wesley Schultz & Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers, this finds the artist in a more relaxed place and telling stories in the rich detail that has become a hallmark.

What’s more, there’s a classic quality surrounding the song structures that gives some a timeless quality.

Album opener Molly-O!, for instance, is a vibrant start that finds Felice proclaiming the beauty of its eponymous character and declaring “I can be what you know”. There’s a bittersweet quality underpinning the lyrics, too, as Felice admits: “Lord knows I’m trying, but I can’t let you know.” He’s fighting for the one he loves but when you hear the upbeat melodies and stabs of brass, you could be fooled for thinking this is a straight-forward serenade delivered in the style of a classic artist like Dylan, Fleetwood Mac or Tom Petty.

Another instant favourite is If You Go To LA, a song that recalls his work with The Duke & The King, and which again has a bittersweet quality to it. It’s a searching, reflective song about a woman who resides there but who might just have her own set of difficulties (“if you go to LA and meet a girl out walking in the drizzle and the rain, look her straight in the eye and tell her I’m doing fine”). This is underlined still further by Felice when he sings: “There’s so many kinds of pills up in them bloody hills.” It’s beautifully paradoxical… the almost romantic instrumentation belying the more serious tone. But, again, evidence of Felice’s mastery of his craft.

If there’s a criticism, especially late on during the album, it’s that perhaps there’s one too many songs that adopt this slower-burning approach, especially by the time you reach downbeat final track The Gallows. One suspects that a better finale might have been something on a tonal par with Molly-O.

But nevertheless, when Felice is on form, there’s so much to enjoy. And while a track like Running Through My Head suggests it’s going to be another laidback slow-builder from it opening minute or so, the gradual layering of vocals and instruments is beautifully realised – whether in the female backing vocals that drift in and out or the subtle piano chords or, later on, the strings.

Elsewhere, Our Lady of The Gun weaves a rich tale of war and its consequences that’s again repeated in Gettysburg (a neat juxtaposition of modern and classic conflicts, wiith the latter employing a nicely robust folk-rock vibe), while Heartland is another that strikes an instant chord, nicely building to a chorus that states: “I want to know what it means to be in love.”

Put together, Felice’s second solo record is something to admire and really find the time to sit back and enjoy.

Download picks: Molly-O!, If You Go To LA, Running Through My Head, Gettysburg, Heartland

Track listing:

  1. Molly-O!
  2. If You Go to LA
  3. Running Through My Head
  4. Our Lady of the Gun
  5. Bye Bye Palenville
  6. Gettysburg
  7. The Best That Money Can Buy
  8. Heartland
  9. Bastille Day
  10. The Gallows