Dublin’s David Balfe, aka For Those I Love, has delivered the most personal, heart-wrenching and dancefloor-filling album of the year, one that channels his platonic love for his best friend, Paul Curran. The project is the inner workings of Balfe’s battle with grief following Curran’s death and coming to terms with life without his best friend.
The album grabs your attention from the first verse as Balfe’s thick Dublin accent takes you through a whirlwind of love, loss and everything in between. The opener, ‘I Have A Love’, sees Balfe reminisce about precious memories of wasting days as teenagers talking music and dancing at warehouse raves, which immediately sets the stall for the record.
Towards the end of the track, Balfe breaks character and talks directly to Paul to say, “And a year ago or so, I played this song for you on the car stereo in the night’s breeze/ This bit kicked in with its synths and its keys/ and you smiled as you sat next to me/ you in the front/ Gilly in the backseat going ninety to the sounds as we roared down the street.”
You find yourself hanging on to every last word on the album, every last sample and every last second of each voice message Balfe expertly litters across the record. It’s a captivating journey into grief, as the Dubliner tries to come to terms with losing a person that he envisioned to be drinking with until they were the old men, in the corner, propping up the bar. Now, tragically, there’s going to be one empty stool.
For Those I Love is a therapy session for Balfe, with him taking the listener along his journey to recovery. Throughout the record, Balfe reminisces precious nights spent listening to The Streets, Burial and Mount Kimbie, with the latter being a stark resemblance from a sonic perspective. Balfe’s lyricism adds a contrasting ingredient, one that creates unsettling moments thanks to his raw musings, crafting words that put you in his shoes.
On ‘The Myth/ I Don’t’, Balfe paints a bleak but hauntingly honest picture of attempting to cope and leaning on unhealthy vices in a bid to escape momentarily. The track feels as though you’re reading his secret diary, as he says: “Walking around like a pissed madman by myself/ wasting a low wage wealth on my health/ red eyes and red credit/ searching for ways to get out of this state on Reddit.”
The track punctuates the album and captures Balfe when he’s given up on just about everything, and his only focus is getting wrecked as his problem spirals over the song leading him to question the point of life when he’s no longer living. At the end of the song, Balfe sounds like he’s in tears as he delivers the final few lines and shows him at his most fragile, and, in turn, his true strength.
‘Birthday/The Pain’ is another highlight from the record. It transports you to a deep chat with a close friend after a warehouse rave, which embodies the record’s spirit in one song. The juxtaposition of a euphoric sampled chorus with Balfe’s grief-stricken lyrics make for unlikely bedfellows, but the result is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The penultimate track, ‘You Live/ No One Like You’, sees Balfe find some kind of solace as he reminisces about listening to ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division on repeat, smoking hash and watching football.
Towards the end of the album, Balfe becomes gradually more hopeful for the future as he comes to terms with life without Curran and finds a resilience to live on for the pair of them.
Music should make you feel a connection, and anybody who has lost a friend prematurely will find comfort and pain across the record. Even though Balfe’s lyrics are from the microscopic school ala Mike Skinner, his focus on the small details somehow doesn’t detract from the album resonating universally.
This year, no other album will manage to make you feel equal moments of exhilaration and anguish as the triumphant For Those I Love.