slowthai (photo by Edwardx via WikiCommons) and James Blake (photo via Instagram)
The artist born Tyron Frampton has spoken many times about the impact of losing Michael Frampton at the age of one due to muscular dystrophy. slowthai was 8 at the time, and during an interview with The Guardian last year, he spoke about going into a tailspin of rage, seeking help in anger management classes, and finding solace in an old VHS copy of Eminem’s 8 Mile.
In an Instagram post yesterday, slowthai announced “Feel Away” and wrote a tribute to his brother. He said,
“today is the anniversary of my baby brothers passing. this is one of the biggest days of the year for me and my family, and with my whole heart I can say I’ve never missed anyone as much as I miss him, I know you’re looking down on us everyday with your smile. i’m doing everything in my power to live for him and also make him proud… tomorrow i’m dropping a song featuring @jamesblake + @mountkimbie called ‘feel away’ and i’m dedicating it to my little brother Michael John. rest in paradise little brother I love you more than life itself”
With a jumping off point like this, you might expect the song to be sad. But slowthai has placed the track before birth, on an island of optimism within a sea of uncertainty. The opening lyrics sketch a struggling relationship and a woman who feels “trapped, stuck up in this fuckin’ maze.” The narrator slowthai hopes a baby will help. His glass-half-full perspective won’t be shared by the audience, and that’s part of the track’s charm — we know more than he does. In a statement, he said, “This song is about the doubts we have whether it be within friendships, your partner or with our family. It’s about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes so you have a better understanding of the situation.”
“Feel Away” doesn’t have a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, and after slowthai has said his peace, the track is given fully to James Blake. He starts simply and layers on complexity, beginning with a repetition of “This time I…” before resolving into “This time I have one hand free/ This has nothing to do with me.” Blake develops his own musical ideas, his own repeated themes, and drops not-quite literal lines like “I leave the dent in my car/ To remind me what I could have lost.” Afterwards Dom Maker of Mount Kimbie takes us home with a dreamy outro.
The accompanying music video was directed by Oscar Hudson, and finds slowthai and a pregnant girlfriend in a waiting room labelled “Maternity Ward”. He proposes, promises to love the baby, and then his belly expands as he takes on the pregnancy himself. He isn’t in for an easy time, or even a happy ending, but on the bright side, the video makes use of the Internet’s favorite quarantine meme of discovering unexpected cakes. Scroll onwards to check out “Feel Away”.
“Feel Away” comes after slowhtai released a trio of singles in May: “ENEMY”, “MAGIC”, and “BB(BODYBAG)” which also featured Dom Maker from Mount Kimbie. His last album was the excellent 2019 debut Nothing Great About Britain.