Firstly, let me say that 2014 has been an excellent year for me in music terms - there have been some special albums out this year. My selections can be seen here.
But one album this year has not let me go from the first listen.
I was aware of Simone Felice from the work with his brothers (The Felice Brothers) and I'd heard a couple of tracks from his first solo album.
But nothing prepared me for Strangers. I love it when an album comes out of nowhere and grabs me so hard that it's hard to resist. And that is exactly what has happened with Strangers. Right from the first listen I was enchanted. I kept going back to it time & time again as it's beauty & scope gradually sank in. Simone has approched the album as a storyteller - which is interesting seeing as he's a published author. In fact, Simone really is an interesting story himself - he wrote in The Guardian about it and it can be read here.
The album is relatively short, sweet and perfectly formed - 10 tracks of absolute beauty.
I first highlighted it back in May.
I have been so impressed at how Simone & fellow co-producer David Baron have created an album of such filmic and widescreen beauty with such simple instrumentation.
It is an album of emotional beauty and is almost gospel like in places.
Strangers kicks off with the uptempo Molly O, which is the only real UP song on the whole record. Right from song one - the words grab your attention - poetic, enticing you in, thought provoking.
'Good trips and bad trips we're still gonna hold our lips to the chalice,
even when the scales are tipped
You know I'd never hurt you baby,
it's your virtue that hangs in the balance.'
The album was recorded in Sun Mountain Studios near his home in the Catskills Mountains near Woodstock in New York.
Simone - ''It’s really about, you know, the realisation that we can be so in love with someone, or so in love with an idea, or friends, or people in our lives,” he said.
'' Yea though I walk through the stripmall,
in chains of iron,
thrown to the lions, hunted by sirens,
Can't you hear them screaming,
Simone has written a gorgeous and moving song about conflict in the moving Our Lady Of The Gun.
Family has always been an important source of inspiration for Simone and he looks back to his younger life in the hymnic Bye Bye Palenville.
'But I could never understand,
how a living breathing man
could run away and
leave his kids in the cold'
'And then the day our baby came,
and we gave her a precious name
so everyone would know
what a pearl we found'
Pearl is the name of Simone's daughter.
I love the fact that many of the tracks on the album have an almost hymnic quality and one of the best is Bastille Day.
In a nutshell, the album for me is Intimate, Beautiful, Lyrical, Hymnic, Uplifting & Emotional.
I could wax lyrical about this record for hours - but that would be boring and I'm no talented journalist.
All I can do is point you in the direction of the album and urge you to give it a listen.
My favourite track on Strangers is the final track - The Gallows.
Death has never sounded so beautiful.
'I am standing on the gallows in a winter's rain,
but I am light as a sparrow,
'cause I'm on my way'
Twitter - @SimoneFelice
Quotations by Simone courtesy of