Album Review – For Those I Love

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

Podcast – Keep Talking

Artwork for the Keep Talking podcast, orange background with an avatar picture in black of presenter Stewart Baxter

Keep Talking with Stewart Baxter

So many podcasts but which one to choose? One thing that ongoing lockdown has provided is a swarm of new podcasts on subjects great and small, as online becomes the one consistent media outlet. Another prevalent topic amidst the pandemic is the importance of good mental health; an issue that has been hijacked a little by the ‘powers’ that be, but shows its real champions in a place where people genuinely want to support each other without looking for a pay off.

Music and mental health are no strangers and, happily, the move towards this becoming a more positive link is on the rise. There’s a growing recognition that life in the industry can be tough and an understanding that sometimes artists need to take a break for their own wellbeing. Equally, many of those same artists are using their platform to raise awareness about mental health, encourage people to talk about it more and make it less of a taboo subject.

So where does all of this tie together? Launched last year, Keep Talking is a new podcast centred around live music, lockdown and mental health. Chatting about these subjects is presenter Stewart Baxter (drummer in LIFE) with a series of musicians and friends. In the latest episode going live today, Stewart talks to Jehnny Beth; singer, songwriter, actor, producer and presenter, Jehnny is probably best known for fronting Savages and as one half of duo John & Jehn. It’s a lovely conversation and so natural it feels as though you’re sitting at a table in a café overhearing two mates having a natter while your chamomile tea slowly goes cold. Starting with the constant conundrum of whether to be bluntly honest when someone asks how you are or just auto-reply, “I’m fine thanks”, it’s a remarkably uplifting listen as the pair speak about how music has helped them at difficult times in their lives, Jehnny’s early life growing up in a theatre, and the release of her debut album and book amidst the uncertainty of 2020.

Commenting on the new episode, Stewart says: “Back in August 2020 I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my biggest inspirations, Jehnny Beth. I first witnessed Jehnny performing with her band Savages on the Jools Holland TV show back in 2012, a performance that made the hairs on my neck stand up, and that I talked about for weeks, months and even years afterwards. I quickly realised that everything Jehnny went on to do was going to blow my mind, and the respect I have for her as an artist was only deepened when she invited my band LIFE to perform on the pilot of her new TV show ECHOES and I had a chance to meet her in person. Jehnny is a sweetheart, and a kind soul. An unparalleled artist who doesn’t ask for permission, or forgiveness.”

If you have an hour to spare and can’t face another repeated quiz show, turn off the TV and spend some time in the company of friends.

Supported by funding from Disabled Entrepreneurs UK, Soundsphere Magazine commissioned a locked-down Baxter to record a series of podcasts with the simple goal to re-connect, catch up, and check in with musicians and friends he has met along the way. Previous episodes feature Primal Scream’s Simone Marie Butler and Lee Kiernan of IDLES; future guests to be announced.

Words by Siobhan
Details and images via Wall of Sound PR

8th January 2021