Since departing the cheery camaraderie of his Felice Brothers in 2009, Simone Felice has created a body of solo work cinematic in its detail and borderline hallucinatory in its introspection. Not wholly bereft of the rustic joviality of his former fraternity—2011’s Nothing Gold Can Stay by the duo of The Duke and The King displays some healthy bonding in the midst of its radiant summery air—the man who sang, drummed, wrote and produced with such a close-knit fraternity (and other high-profile names such as the Lumineers and Bat For Lashes) has created something of a parallel universe-in-song for himself and those listeners who can tune in on the same wavelength to access such stark efforts as The Projector.
In contrast to the almost unremittingly inclusive aura Felices Ian and James conjure with their comrades, their elder sibling’s new songs carry the ring of truth, though it’s not altogether easy to process. And it isn’t that Simone’s work isn’t accessible, but only that its singular mood, while surreptitiously beckoning the listener, is not overtly inviting: the multiple layers of meaning in songs such as “Your Hands” and “Angel By My Side,” are ripe for interpretation, but somewhat daunting in their density.
And take this title tune: in keeping with the allusions of the name of the album and the song, Simone’s lyrics offers images of a suicide scenario so vivid, the sound effect of a running movie projector is redundant; Felice deserves to be more confident he leaves a sufficiently distinct impression with combination of his shell-shocked singing and the skeletal arrangement of the track. Because so much of the rest of The Projector is similarly the work of Simone Felice alone, the hushed female background vocal on “Angel by My Side” becomes utterly ghostly as a result, a veritable aural vision.
Cuts like “The Fawn” come and go here as if in fast forward, a dynamic that invites repeated listenings in order to absorb the solitary, somewhat desolate state of mind Felice conjures up. “I seen too much to believe in an afterlife” is an understandable sentiment coming from a man who’s endured the life challenges he has: writing and recording efforts like The Projector may be exactly the sort of creative endeavors that supply his will(ingness) to live and persevere. Even so, the clatter of drums, sparse keyboards and close harmony singing within “Same On Any Corner” evoke something of a dead-end futility.
In contrast, the plodding tempo of “To Be You to Be Me,” sounds oddly comforting, despite the fact, its acoustic piano figures accentuate the separation between the two characters in the narrative. By the time “You Shall Be My Eyes” appears, the air of portent in these ten numbers has become unrelenting or would be if it weren’t for such ever-so-faint glimmers of light and warmth elsewhere on this LP on the New York Pro label. Yet the spoken word interlude that is “They’d Hang Upon My Every Word,” ironically enough, goes on just a bit too long past its self-referential segment.
Simone Felice is also overstating the obvious with that penultimate number. Rather than one of the longest cuts here, it might well have been one of the shortest, especially as the following “War Movie,” is so graphic, its somber autobiographical references accentuated by a sole electric guitar. Wholly effective on its own terms, this closer also crystallizes the implicitly uplifting impression this artist slowly but surely formulates during the course of The Projector.