For Those I Love's debut album is a magnificently constructed mix of dance and spoken word that deals with the depths of grief, love, and friendship.
TW: Mentions of su*cide
Dublin-based artist For Those I Love, real name David Balfe, is no stranger to grief. After the suicide of his best friend and fellow artistic collaborator Paul Curran in 2018, Balfe retreated into his parent’s shed where he and his friends used to hang out and recorded over 76 songs as a tribute to the memory of his friend. These songs were cut down to the nine which appear on For Those I Love, and the result is an emotional exploration of love, friendship, and death.
The mix of dance, rave, synth, and spoken word allows Balfe to meaningfully integrate his powerful storytelling into music – no sound is wasted on the listener.
On the opening track, ‘I Have a Love’, Balfe paints a picture of him and his friends piling into a car, blasting music in teenage ecstacy. There is a moment of quiet as the synths build up around Balfe’s voice, who speaks directly to Paul as he talks about playing him this song – ”this bit kicked in with it’s synths and its keys, and you smiled as you sat next to me”. The song builds as Balfe returns to the main motif of the album: ”I have a love, and it will never fade, and neither will you, Paul”. Then, as promised, the synths and the keys kick in, and the image of teenage joy is stuck in the listener’s mind.
This image is the most important one on the album. Throughout, Balfe implicitly tackles the issue of toxic masculinity by showcasing the importance of loving male friendships, returning again and again to the unfading love that he has for his friends. It would be easy to simply describe this record as a eulogy, but it goes deeper than that. Balfe does not simply remember and celebrate his late friend, but uses his grief as a method to take the listener into the depth of his memories, and remind them of the importance and fleeting nature of life.
There are much darker sides to the album, too. ‘Top Scheme’ is a passionate criticism of the treatment of mental health, or lack thereof. Balfe points out that ‘it’s just numbers and stats, til’ it’s your life’, urging for an improvement in the way that we deal with mental illnesses. This song is one of the most angry on the whole album; Balfe doens’t just want people to listen, he wants them to get raging at the thought of lost loved ones. ‘Top Scheme’ ends on the saddest note on the album, where Balfe gives up on his message of love: ‘all the love in these songs, is not enough, cause the world is fucked’.
‘The Myth / I Don’t’ delves into alcholism and poverty, as Balfe uses the first-person narrative to put his struggles out in the open. He says ‘I only feel good when I’m drunk’, as his voice shifts into a slower, drained tone. This track reminds us of the lasting effects of grief that are often impossible to break out of, and often don’t have any solution.
The album comes to a cyclical close on ‘Leave Me Not Love’, where Balfe’s thoughts and feelings come to a head, muscially and lyrically shifting and overlapping into a jumble of sound until the final lyric ‘I have a love and it’s full of pain’ is shouted. The ending does not resolve the questions asked during the album; rather, it asks the listener to question whether love is enough to keep a memory alive, and do the person justice. For Those I Love doesn’t end in a perfectly solved conscience, but understands that pain and grief can never fully be forgotten.
For Those I Love is an album full of passion, pain, and poetry, and shows great promise for one of Dublin’s fresh new artists.
For Those I Love is out now via September Recordings Ltd. Watch the video for ‘I Have a Love’ here: