Simone Felice – The Projector

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Some artists can tell great stories, but Simone Felice is the master. “Billy Sinclair with the willowy hair, Breaks into Trinity Church on a dare, Where the pastor hides a camera, To capture the rapture, The day that it comes”. But something has changed. On his self-titled solo album six years ago, the tales were told to their often bitter end. Now, though, they tend to take an elliptical turn, leaving you alone with just your imagination for company. “Billy gets afraid and he runs, Don’t look in the back room until you get older, Let the projector run over and over, Over and over”. It’s every bit as compelling as before. But scarier. To help keep him safe, Simone Felice is accompanied here by Four Tet and Natasha Khan, whose own album he recently produced. Their presence fleshes out the strum of the guitar. The plaintiveness of the voice. And adds to the density of the story. Whether it’s a serious song about human trafficking. “You know all the orphan girls in those desert towns, Change their old names to Crystal and Destiny, There’s a man they call ‘The Prince’ and they pass his number around, Says he can get them on an airplane to Kennedy”. Or an equally serious song about everyday life. “Fix the lights, Fix the fridge, Fix the faucet, Fix the kids, Fix my worries, Fix my brain, Hang me out like a scarecrow, In the wind and the rain”. Whatever the subject, Simone Felice is the master story teller. And The Projector is a wonderful collection.

Simone Felice – Strangers

Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair

Simone Felice is in a good place. In 2010 he nearly died. Emergency heart surgery saved his life. Still recovering, his first post-op album had a distinctly dystopian side to it. There was theft, murder, more murder and, most nightmarish of all, a song about eloping with Courtney Love. Fully recovered, he’s back. And how. Whereas his previous outing was often a pretty sparse affair, his new album is a fully realised creation. There’s a band, including friends and relatives. ‘Molly-O!’ sets things off in lively fashion. And ‘Gettysburg’ fairly clips along, making it more like the address than the battle. ‘If You Go To LA’ is a classic Simone Felice song, reminiscent of ‘If You Ever Get Famous’. And ‘Heartland’ is perhaps the stand-out track. It’s so familiar, it sounds like it should be a cover of a much-loved 70s song. Yet it’s a Simone Felice original. But utopia comes at a price. Before, a major part of the attraction was hearing about the antics of Bobby Ray, Hetti Blackbird, and a cast of often disreputable, if not downright dangerous characters. But, here, they’re largely absent. ‘Our Lady Of The Gun’ continues some of the Second Amendment themes of its self-titled predecessor and ending the album with a song called ‘The Gallows’ is a sign that there can be trouble in paradise. For the most part, though, this is, whisper it, an almost happy-sounding album. Is it the worse for that? Absolutely not. But there’s a different vibe for sure. In an interview, Simone Felice recounts that you can actually hear the ticking of his automatic heart valve on at least one of the songs on the album. It’s a life-affirming sound. And that’s the vibe that dominates Simone Felice’s new album.

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