When Simone Felice left the band of his siblings The Felice Brothers he made a brave decision. They had made a near classic in Yonder Is The Clock, some five years ago now. Much has changed for Simone since, not least after another serious health scare, but on Strangers we hear a man who is finally enjoying a turn of fortune.
There’s much here to love, some wholly beautiful moments and he certainly stands up as a fine American singer-songwriter. In fact, on this his latest solo release he sounds brighter and more inspired than ever, as if he’s truly finding his feet, and in it his sound.
Lead single ‘Molly-O’ kicks off proceedings with an upbeat unlikely anthem of sorts. Felice is better on other songs when there seems less urgency to have a sing-along for people to connect with. It’s a bright start, but the real light comes from the later songs, wherein the human condition, love and darkness actually create a wonderful sense of warmth and understanding between the song and the listener.
The following two tracks, ‘If You Go To LA’ and ‘Running Through My ahead’ are both much sweeter. The tenderness and execution of the sentiments is delightful. The former has a chorus reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel and the latter is an ode to having someone constantly in the thoughts. The sweetness of both is perfectly balanced.
The album proceeds magnificently, a colossal highlight is ‘Bye Bye Palenville.’ The track is an instant lilting classic. It pines, it sounds immediately familiar, and it lodges itself in your consciousness for long after it has moved on. The track is never quite matched, though the ensuing five tracks manage to show his talents sufficiently.
‘Gettysburg’ jangles and wiggles its ass like some long lost country-folk REM track. The harmonies and la-la-la’s are all perfectly placed on this record. It sounds like a record for everyone. It’s a lot of fun.
Strangers moves Felice forwards as an artist. He has shaken himself completely free of the shadow of the band and has demanded the attention of those who like an even remotely well written song. It’s a gorgeous album, and more than anything it feels like there’s a lot more to come from this man. Wonderful indeed.
Words: Dominic Stevenson