It’s been just under three years since the last album from The Felice Brothers. It was the end, in a lot of ways, of their under-the-radar career. They’ve been dragged into the mainstream, somewhat, by their musical collaborations with Conor Oberst. On Salutations they beefed up the solo piano tunes from Conor’s Ruminations while bringing the heat on songs like “Napalm.” Their fanbase opened up after people saw them opening for and backing up Oberst at shows.
Internally a lot has changed as well. Ian put out a great solo record in 2017 and played some solo shows. Jimmy has lost a lot of weight and looks healthier than ever. The biggest change might be their surrounding cast, which has completely changed. Greg Farley and Josh Rawson are gone, replaced by drummer Will Lawrence and bassist Jesske Hume. This change has come with a fresh take on their musical style that finds its home on Undress.
A couple things stand out right away, even if you’ve only heard the singles that have been released over the past couple months. One, this is their most overtly political album to date. And two, Undress is easily their most accessible record, attracting new fans that haven’t heard of them previously. Some of their weirdness has been set aside to coax the most emotional and intellectual resonance from the tracks. For better or worse, this is their shot at making a record that sells as well as they’ve deserved for a long time.
The production on Undress, done with the help of Jeremy Backofen, is pristine. The harmonies soar and the instruments, from accordion to piano to guitar, all come through perfectly. You can feel the passion and intensity moving from song to song through the album even on the first listen, which isn’t always true on Felice Brothers records.
The singles released really push the new sound, but deeper cuts on the album show that they haven’t totally left the old ways behind. On “Days Of The Years” Ian reminds us of what brought people into their fanbase many years ago. It’s his sincere delivery that first made me take a harder listen when their self-titled record came out over a decade ago, and it keeps me interested here.
Despite a new sound, new members, and loftier goals, The Felice Brothers are still the same band at it’s core. Ian and Jimmy are making music for the lost and the forgotten, but that music is reaching more people than ever. In this age of disconnection I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. And despite Undress featuring a lot about the horrible place we find ourselves in as a society, I think it is also the most hopeful thing they’ve put out so far in their career.
If you’re interested in ordering the record, you can do so here. I pre-ordered and they were nice enough to get it to me a full week early! Thanks, Yep Roc!