For Those I love is essentially singer, songwriter, and producer David Balfe. This album began as a of memoir of friendship but took on a different shape when a tragedy struck. David Balfe was a member of a North Dublin collective movement Burnt Out with best friend and poet Paul Curran. Paul sadly took his own life, and this album became a personalised portrait of love, loss, confusion, nostalgia, and pain, almost a public mourning. Balfe’s poetic spoken word vocal style is delivered over arrangements that blur the lines between ambient techno and dubstep, emo rap, and alternative hip-hop.
The album opens up with `I Have A Love` where a distant repeated piano key leads us into David`s eulogy to his late friend which is delivered in a poetic spoken word style with a quietly sung chorus. There are snippets of conversation between the two friends intermingled with a compelling raw piano rhythm which picks up pace as the song progresses. There a more trippy, musical interplay that leads us through the last minute or so. We have an almost dub type electronica texture about `You Stayed / To Live` a reflective track with verbal snapshots of pranks, bands they formed and simple things like meals shared at the singers` family home.
`To Have To` has an almost Blade Runner futuristic backdrop that allows the singer to express the things that shaped the friends from the environment that they grew up in. Skewered synth swathes allows the narrator to express a heartfelt commentary come tirade of social deprivation on `Top Scheme` and the politics of allowing such unjust social poverty and what it creates and the inability to escape these surroundings.
`The Myth / I Don`t` again relates to an inequal society and the problems associated and how relying on alcohol can become a numbing addiction just to evade the situation for a length of time. The last minute `I Don`t` is almost an inverse slant on LL Cool J`s `I Feel Love` with the lyrics of “I don`t want to be loved, I don’t want to be understood”. The weirdly atmospheric `The Shape of You` has references to “The Tracks of My Tears” and describes the singer being visited in hospital by friends. laid up with a broken leg and the feeling of escape when his companions wheel him beyond the hospital doors. A strangely compelling piece that has all sorts of musical elements from orchestration to an almost tribal hypnosis.
`Birthday / The Pain` relates a childhood shaped by witnessing a body being dumped on the estate where you live, stabbed and bleeding at six years old and being ostracised by the local Police as they abuse you verbally and physically. Days spent vandalising public transport as you`ve no money, almost no hope or purpose in life and then growing up with the only relief a football match with your mates who are a substitute for a lack of affection in your life but give you a semblance of optimism. All related against a milieu of mesmerising female vocals and some trumpet blasts. Wonderfully enthralling. We have more realism with `You Live / No One Like You` that quietly builds with piano keys and a distorted electronic beat that lays a base for the singer to relate the veracity of life in the part of Dublin that he grew up in. These are not the romanticised images portrayed in songs from The Pogues, the poetry of Keats or John B Keane books but cash for hash, discarded mattresses and The River Liffey littered with broken seats.
The album closes out with `Leave Me Not Love` a sort of reimagining of the opening song `I Have A love` which is a little less hostile and takes a much faster pace as the singer relates his feelings.
`For Those I Have` is not an easy listen as the subject matter is extremely uncomfortable at times and it almost forces us into an appraisal or self-examination of our own lives. The album is a sort of working class platonic love story of somebody close who shaped your life and is now no longer there. I felt the Dublin accented intonation added to the realistic portrait of growing up in a deprived environment and not an idealised gentrified picture. Nevertheless, hope shines through this outpouring of grief. It`s an astounding and emotive homage to a lost friend and it would be fitting to leave the last line to the singer which sums up this tribute.
“I have a love, and it will never fade, And either will you, Paul.”