For Those I Love
For Those I Love, at its core, is testament to the power of friendship. Platonic love between friends, and more specifically men, is not often discussed in depth by popular music, despite the somewhat surface level shout outs. Dublin’s David Balfe, however, has crafted a tremendous record on the subject, drenched in the grief at the loss of his close friend Paul Curran.
The opening track, I Have A Love, generated widespread interest as a single last year for its spacious electronica against Balfe’s proclamation that “I have a love, and it never fades”. This phrase re-appears throughout the album, like a calming mantra used to pull Balfe back to the centre of his emotions when things get too dark. Which they do. Moments such as The Myth/I DO, where Balfe admits to not checking his phone any longer due to the anxiety of receiving a similar phone call to the one that brought him the news of the tragedy, are emotionally striking, and the album is bursting with vulnerable admissions like it. Top Scheme and Birthday/The Pain are some of the few moments where Balfe allows the listener a wider glimpse into his experiences, tackling class inequality in post-recession Ireland and the desire to break free from an oppressive environment – the latter opening with the chilling childhood flashback, “body dumped on me road when I was 6 – stabbed to death and left on bricks”.
It’s an emotional listen, like peeking at the pages of someone’s diary, though thankfully musically For Those I Love compliments the lyrics, which on their own would potentially be far too difficult a listen.
Elements of trance, UK garage and early dubstep amalgamate to invoke a sound post-warehouse rave, the feeling of being at a rave rather than the music necessarily played at one. Glitchy synths, pitched up vocals and intermittent pianos along with a range of samples from Smokey Robinson to WhatsApp voice memos all come together to complete a beautifully nocturnal and mournful sonic texture.
If the album sees Balfe tussle through the stages of grief, closer Leave Me Not Love offers the clearest moments of acceptance and hope. The opening track’s hypnotic melody returns and though he admits that still “There’s rain that will never go away, there’s days and days of every kind of pain”, it’s on a positive note that the same love is the one that is going to provide the deepest catharsis, “But those I love brought me back to health, and I ain’t never need nothing else”, it’s one of the few moments on the album which seems to look forward rather than backwards.
With this in mind, and with For Those I Love being bookended so beautifully, what musical endeavour Balfe will move onto next remains somewhat unclear. However, if it touches on the quality shown here, it will no doubt be worth listening to.
For Those I Love is out now – you can purchase the album here and listen to David Balfe speaking about the album on the podcast below.
Review by Ryan Bell
5th April 2021