Oftentimes when I listen to music I am transported to another time in my life. I might remember something I felt years ago, or I might have some sort of crazy epiphany, or the long-coming solution to something nagging me in the back of my mind might finally come out of the shadows. I love this about music – that it can take me back to moments that may have seemed insignificant when they happened, but hold wisdom in hindsight. Rarely, though, do I hear an album for the first time and feel myself spirited away into the body and psyche of someone else and our emotions mixed and melded. On his debut album as For Those I Love, master sonic collager David Balfe has achieved this impressive feat.
Written over the course of several years, including after the death of his best friend and musical co-conspirator/soulmate Paul Curran, with this album Balfe manages to make me feel the life-sapping and destroying depression and sorrow of loving and losing someone so close. Then, rolling up and down on emotional highs and lows that feel somewhat like being at the mercy of an expanding and raging ocean tide, Balfe’s record resuscitates listeners. He injects life and hope back into me with his own memories. This intimate record uses old WhatsApp voice notes, lines of Curran’s poetry and dance samples intertwined and tangled up with Balfe’s spoken-word storytelling to bring listeners into the heart of his past, from his sometimes dark childhood in a suburb north of Dublin to the highs of knowing real love and brotherhood with Curran and the young men’s other friends.
Each track is unique and there’s not a bad song here. Conversations between mates, exclamations about the demise of punk and unique beats wind themselves around the listener’s mind until it is completely claimed, fertile ground for an outpouring of pain and love and the unfairness and bittersweetness of history. The standout track is ‘To Have You’. It’s a reminder that even in sadness the memories of loved ones and better times are something to be cherished instead of pushed away. The song’s energy is rolling and sparkling, bringing to mind the catharsis found on a dancefloor – not a distraction from everyday life but a time to let your more abstract, primal feelings have their moment in the sun. Feel first, think second. Otherwise the darkness will ruin you from the inside out.
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