Simone Felice‘s gripping, devastating new album The Projector is, and this is apparent even after one listen, an immediate classic. His previous solo albums, 2014’s Strangers and 2012’s eponymous record, were dark-night-of-the-soul, emotionally traumatic records, but here, Felice has pushed the violence and horror of his signature sound as far as it can possibly go. This record should come with a warning.
The sheer beauty of his music often does much to hide the tar-black sentiment of his lyrics, where the narrator of the tracks often deals with existential crises, crumbling relationships and broken dreams. Here, there’s a stark, dry quality to the tracks that often evokes Bruce Springsteen‘s 1982 magnum opus Nebraska. The synth swells and forlorn acoustic guitar of Your Hands give way to a gloriously melancholy choral crescendo where he deals with deep feelings of regret in the “pouring rain”.
Same On Any Corner is a dark, leather-jacketed rocker, with snare cracks and minor-key strums. Felice’s vocal timbre is pushed into the rockier end of his range, where he pushes the words out with a sense of bitterness. A little later, You Shall Be My Eve verges on psychedelic, where guitars sway next to waves of pillowy synth and chiming organ. He sings about being “lost in your eyes” with a devout sincerity, earnestly imploring his lover.
Pushing the aesthetic perfection of the record to absurd, even comical levels, is the poem They’d Hang Upon My Every Word, which leads into the concluding track War Movie. It’s a spacious, empty concert hall of a track, where more lovers get lost, and “black nights” are met with “the coldest sound in Christendom”. The sense of isolation and devastation corrupt what is, essentially, a love song. The War Movie of the title is metaphoric for the breakdown of a relationship. Simone Felice, ladies and gentlemen.
To truly understand the emotional heft of The Projector is to come to terms with some pretty heavy questions: What is love? What is it to be in love? What is it to have lost? As a songwriter, Felice is unafraid to bring those questions into his art, and to explore them with a sense of honesty that many artists cannot conceive of. Potentially, some listeners may be put off by the lack of light at the end of The Projector’s tunnel, but there are moments of almost euphoric bliss in the acceptance and recognition of the truth of his songs. Felice is far better than many an artist in his field, and is only getting better. Long may he continue.