There’s a line in LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’, a timeless ode to togetherness, that cuts straight to its sentimental core: “it’s the memory of our betters”, says frontman James Murphy, that is ultimately “keeping us on our feet”. It’s one of those knee-buckling lyrics that shows how absence is a presence when it comes to those who matter, but in doing so reminds you that life is for living.
Those same bittersweet emotions are what drive the self-titled debut from Dublin producer and songwriter For Those I Love, real name David Balfe. The genesis of the record came from a time in 2018, when Balfe’s best friend since childhood and musical partner Paul Curran took his own life. Hibernating in his parents’ shed, where Balfe and Curran used to jam as teenagers in hardcore bands, he used his grief and his memories as a prism to focus on the people and places of his life that made him, eventually cutting down the 70-plus songs to the nine that make up this album.
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“It ended up being this merge of archive and thank you letter to the love that I had for my friends and my family; specifically for Paul and the thanks that I had for what had been given to us and the sacrifices that had been made and the collective survival that came after it,” Balfe recently told NME, “but it’s also this ode to Paul and Paul’s life and our love as a creative coupling.”
A tapestry of spoken word poetry, clips of voicenotes from friends on WhatsApp (including Curran) and sounds that draw on memories of driving around at night with mixtapes of The Streets, Burial and Mount Kimbie, ‘For Those I Love’ conjures up all the emotions of an illegal rave (before, during and after), while celebrating friendship and reflecting the true colour of urban life. Spacious opener ‘I Have A Love’ marries sweet piano sounds and subtle ravey beats as Balfe recalls his whole friendship with his late friend; from school days to scuffles in the streets and playing their first sweaty gigs before the touching sign-off, “I felt like I had it all. I have a love, and it will never fade and neither will you, Paul. I love you bro.”
The refrain of that “I have a love” repeats through the trance-y ‘You Stayed/To Live’ – recalling more treasured nights of hedonism and burning sofas – right through to the closer of the blissed-out ‘Leave Me Not Love’, where Balfe finds peace by concluding that “those I love brought me back to health, and I ain’t never needed nothing else”. This record is a testament to the people who’ll always have your back, but there’s righteous anger in here too. Especially on the bitter darkwave of ‘Top Scheme’, where he pours scorn on how the vulnerable are left to fend for themselves in a landscape where “it’s numbers and stats, until it’s your life” and “it seems sometimes the love in these songs isn’t enough – because the world is fucked”.
Balfe never buckles under the grief though, and the characters and moments throughout spark a jubilant atmosphere; it’s a testament to the power of catharsis. This is felt strongest on the achingly tender ‘Birthday/The Pain’, which dabbles in an Avalanches-esque cosmic dancehall sonic palette to move through the hard times and revel in what really counts: “So we’ll spend the rest of our lives being brave, and hope that things will change, and age will still mark the time in the same way – but I’ll hold on a little tighter to the love of my mates, forever and a day”. In an album stuffed with astonishing moments, this one shines brightest.
‘For Those I Love’ is not only an immaculate debut, but a beautiful record that speaks to anyone who’s ever loved and lost, anyone who might be mourning or just processing the days of youthful abandon, or perhaps those who need reminding that you can’t have shadows without the light. “Stories to tell never breed sadness, they treat it,” he says on ‘The Shape Of You’, “and if you can grasp it, own it, deal with it, you can heal with it”. He’s not wrong. We’ll dance together again soon. Until then, keep going.
Release date: March 26
Record label: September Recordings