PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Simone Felice: Simone Felice

Simone Felice's debut solo album is a simple, yet beautiful, invocation of the fragility and beauty of human life.


Simone Felice

Simone Felice

Label: Team Love
US Release Date: 2012-04-10
UK Release Date: 2012-04-02
Amazon
iTunes

I’m sitting on a train travelling from my hometown of Birmingham, heading to London, where I’m to catch a flight to Caracas, Venezuela. I’m incredibly excited by my impending journey although feeling a bit emotional about leaving my family behind at home for a little while. The rain is hammering down against the windows of the train, the weak April British sunshine bleeding into the black of the night the further south I get. All this is adding to my sense of trepidation and discovery that journeys into the unknown evoke. Simone Felice’s self titled debut album is accompanying me as I travel: the sparse simple arrangements, with Felice’s delicate almost reverential vocals, at one with the gentle rhythms of the train’s motion. I couldn’t have chosen a better or more apt soundtrack to listen to as it is clear that Felice has also been on his own journey and, with the release of this album, has reached, if not his final destination, then certainly an important resting place.

The former drummer, writer and vocalist of folk/Americana band the Felice Brothers, has produced a strikingly beautiful album that will appeal to followers of the current, slightly twee English folk revival – Mumford & Sons guest on the album – and the more dusty, gritty and panoramic style of Americana. The back-story of Felice, which in some respects is the story of the album, cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Born with a congenital heart defect and then suffering a brain aneurysm when he was 12, Simone was pronounced clinically dead for several minutes and was not expected to survive, or, as doctors informed his parents, if he did, then his motor faculties might be seriously affected. This traumatic experience, and the subsequent recovery, pushed the young Felice into what has turned out to be a life of creative endeavour.

These endeavours would see the young Felice front a punk band at the age of fifteen, playing at the legendary CBGBs in the process, writing and performing his poetry, and penning two short stories, Goodbye Amelia in 2004 and Hail Mary Full of Holes in 2005, and eventually forming the magnificent Felice Brothers with siblings Ian and James. More health issues, this time the small matter of open-heart surgery he underwent in the summer of 2010, resulted in Simone being asked to write his memoirs for the Guardian newspaper, completing his first novel Black Jesus, fronting the Duke & the King, leaving the Felice Brothers and now releasing this album. Part of you suspects such a burst of activity is borne from looking death in the eye and coming out, if not exactly smiling then thankful, eager to make the most of our relatively short time on this earth.

It is hard to know if Felice’s songwriting on this album reflects these near death experiences or is autobiographical, it seems to be a lazy assumption to think so, but there is undoubtedly a personal component to his music, evidenced in titles such as “Hey Bobby Ray”, “Courtney Love”, “Stormy-Eyed Sarah” and “Dawn Brady’s Son” to pick just four, which deal with people and their everyday lives. Opener “Hey Bobby Ray” tells the tale of physical abuse and is sung with a breathy, almost hushed tone, “Hey Bobby Ray / You got it coming boy / You’ll get your day,” before soaring into a majestic folk gospel song with the introduction of girls’ choir the Catskill High School Treblaires. “New York Times” is assembled by Felice scanning issues of the venerated newspaper to tell the stories of Eddie Blackbird who “Out in South Dakota / Stole a gold Range Rover / And he drove it over / The empty plains.” It’s such a simple idea, but Felice does it with grace and style drawing you into the protagonist’s worlds, and eager to find out his destiny. “Courtney Love” on the other hand, seems to be a genuine plea for the errant Hole singer to just get in touch with Felice in order to “Take a chance / And come away with me.” The vocals are pushed right to the front of the song, as Felice appears to be talking directly at Love. He understands, Felice seems to be saying, that we all have our personal journeys and it’s not always easy to choose the straight path.

Felice has been likened in the press to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot but it is on the middle tracks of the album (“Stormy-Eyed Sarah”, “Charade”, and “Dawn Brady’s Son”) that the penny finally drops. In his songwriting and delivery, Felice is a modern incantation of Cat Stevens (now recording as Mohammed Yusef). At his height, Stevens had the ability to make his music appear deeply personal to both himself and for the listener. With his similar tone, phrasing and acoustic arrangements, Felice also draws the listener in to his tales of friends, acquaintances and everyday life, letting his songwriting and vocals take us on multiple journeys, his, ours and the song subject’s very own. It is fitting, then, that the final song on the album, “Splendor in the Grass”, deals with the birth of his daughter just three weeks after Felice’s major heart surgery. Now embarking on his next journey as a parent, Felice ends the album with the audible ticking of his new mechanical heart valve, which captures perfectly the fragility and beauty of life with each passing tick.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.