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There comes a time in every frontman’s career when they consider a solo record. Usually when they find themselves at a crossroads, or there’s some change in the wind. For Ian Felice, lead-singer and songwriter of The Felice Brothers, that time is now. Lost in the soup of political upheaval, tour fatigue, and the prospect of becoming a father, ‘In The Kingdom Od Dreams’ (and the companion poetry book, Hotel Swampland) find Felice escaping Parnassus-style into his memories, and give us a delicious hypnotic bayou of stripped-back compositions and poetic revelations.
If the album is a retreat into Felice’s waking dreams, then opening track and lead single ‘In The Kingdom Of Dreams’ is the gateway. An ebbing, funereal dirge that feels centuries old, it’s only Felice’s wry references to Xerox machines and seedy motels that pin it to the modern era. Credit too goes to Simone Felice, Ian’s brother and one-time drummer, who fills the role of producer. It’s his subtle touches of background synths and an otherworldly Theremin that make an album with ‘Dream’ in the title worthy of its name.
That unsettled, dream-like tone runs through the whole release, and gels sweetly with Felice’s talent for Dylan-style, psychedelic lyrics. ‘Will I Ever Reach Laredo’ is a similarly mournful track, with an echoing Ennio Morricone guitar kept on a choke-tight tether, whilst ‘Signs of Spring’ is a piano-led slow-dance featuring brother James Felice on resounding, heart-swelling keys. The whole album over Ian’s vocals reign supreme. Sliding along, semi-talkative, through the tracks’ eloquent bedrock, giving way to a quivering warble for the album’s emotional zeniths. No different from The Felice Brothers’ usual style, true, but given more room to breathe in the album’s stripped-back arrangements.
Though most of the album keeps to the sensitive and tender, the old clang-rock spirit of The Felice Brothers does occasionally rear its head. ‘21st Century’, with its coded esoteric exploration of Trump’s election success, is one of the liveliest pieces on the album complete with a foot-stomping drumbeat and shout-it-out-loud backing vocals. ‘Road To America’ too feels fuller than most, echoing Simone Felice’s recent work with The Lumineers. But nonetheless, it’s the album’s gentlest moments that are the highlights. The delicate ballad ‘Mt Despair’, with its talk of graveyards and gardens that builds to a hailing crescendo, or the honest guitar-led confessions of ‘In Memoriam’. These find Felice at his most personal, and his most arresting.
In Felice’s own words, the album is about how time affects memory. The songs, some of his finest in recent years, are packed with the personal mixed in with all manner of other bizarre and surreal images. Teamed with Simone Felice’s hallucinogenic production and the fluid transitions from one song to the next, what Ian Felice has created is a fair musical adaptation of a long, reminiscent dream. The kind we’ve all had, and that’s the genius of it. It’s personal, but universal, and wrapped up in one healthy package.
‘In The Kingdom Of Dreams’ is out on the 25th August 2017, via Loose Music. You can see Ian Felice at one of the following venues…
22 Nov – MANCHESTER, Night & Day
23 Nov – EDINBURGH, Voodoo Rooms
24 Nov – NEWCASTLE, Live Theatre
26 Nov – NOTTINGHAM, The Maze
27 Nov – LONDON, Borderline
28 Nov – BRISTOL, Thekla
29 Nov – BIRMINGHAM, Hare & Hounds
30 Nov – LEEDS, Brudenell