The Felice Brothers self titled new album

 

I finally got my hands on The Felice Brothers self-titled new album, which came out on March 4th. The record label is Team Love Records, which was founded by Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) and Nate Krenkel. The album opens with a sweet little love song titled “Little Ann.” Ian’s harmonica playing is pretty soulful, although there’s not enough of it… This album takes them in a different direction than their previous ones. Take “Greatest Show On Earth” and “Love Me Tenderly” for example. The Brothers sound as if they’re channeling old cabaret music… They still play sad murder/death plagued ballads too (those are my favorites!), like “Goddamn You, Jim.” If a song makes you start crying within the first 30 seconds (it did), you know it’s a good one. I remember hearing it live, and it stuck with me. It is a truly haunting song… The background music is very ethereal and otherworldly, which perfectly compliments James’ voice. If you close your eyes when you listen, it’s almost as if the song can’t be heard by anyone else, it’s just in your head. It’s as if the deepest depth of your soul is slowly playing a song for you… “St. Stephen’s End” is about murder too, and is told from a storytellers point of view. Each verse starts with Ian singing “Did you hear about…”, goes on to name a person (or elephant, as is the case with verse two), and ends with some sort of death. But in a beautiful way! And that’s one thing The Felice Brothers are good at. They’re good at singing about death, love, regret… And doing it in a beautiful way that isn’t for one second depressing, but hopeful. Hopeful that, although these things happen, let us remember the sadness but be full of life and love for what is yet to come! Maybe the world should listen to what The Felice Brothers have to say. “Take this bread if you need it brother, ’cause I’m all right if you’re all right”… That’s from “Take This Bread.” The Felice Brothers always deliver amazing lyrics. Simone sings on “Don’t Wake The Scarecrow” which is the folksiest of all their songs, and is written in what I consider to be classic Felice style. “Would you love me if I told you I was born upstream, if I told you I came from money, white money, would you love me….”

 

The sound on “Murder By Mistletoe” is reminiscent of “Iantown” (The Felice Brothers first album, and my favorite to date) which I like about it. There are a few songs on the new album which were also on their last one, the independently released “Adventures of The Felice Brothers Vol. 1.” “Ruby Mae” (Yes! Another murder ballad!), “Frankie’s Gun!” (The ultimate “drive down the open highway in the middle of summer with all the windows rolled down blasting music” song), “Helen Fry” (Which it’s been said that Ian wrote after reading a mystery book, and also has a killer opening), “Whiskey In My Whiskey” (Doesn’t the title say it all?), and “Radio Song” (The catchiest of them all, and has indeed been radio stations’ song of choice for airplay).

 

I’m not completely satisfied with the new album however. Although I like it, I was a little dissapointed overall and found it to be a bit dry music-wise. It lacks the same character as their first two albums, “Iantown” and “Through These Reigns and Gone,” which were both recorded before most people had heard of The Felice Brothers. I also felt that “Tonight At The Arizona” and “Adventures of The Felice Brothers Vol. 1” lacked the same charisma as well though, and think that since the first two albums they put out, the rest have been over produced. In my opinion, The Felice Brothers are at their best when everything is stripped away, and it’s just pure, really raw music. I’d like to see them return to that, maybe put out another acoustic album (Iantown was the first). One last thing I didn’t particularly like about the new album was the the horn section. Although the brass lends itself well to some of the songs, I felt that it distracted and took away from other ones. But my complaints are few, and my love is great. The last song on the new album is “Tip Your Way,” and I like the balance of all the instruments on it the best (although this is one that the horns could’ve been left off of). It sounds inspired by an old spiritual, and with The Felice Brothers, it might just be have been. One last sampling of lyrics for you: “Tip your way into Heaven’s gates…” But we don’t have to, because even after the criticisms, we’re just fine with the little piece of Heaven we’ve got. The Felice Brothers music.

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