Released in 2021, Patrick Droney’s debut album State Of The Heart is not an ordinary introductory project. Songs like “Nowhere Town,” “Yours In The Morning, “The Wire,” and “When The Lights Go Out” are just a handful of selections from a record by an artist already at the top of his game. When the dust of that record settled, Droney, the New York-based instrumentalist who combines contemporary pop sounds with the classic rock and blues he grew up on, was tasked with creating a superior body of work to follow. He did just that with his new record Subtitles For Feelings, out this Friday.
…. to Subtitles For Feelings
For those looking between the lines, Subtitles For Feelings was not the immediate title for this project. Examples like lead single “Go Getter” and Droney’s partnership with the Bremont Watch Company hinted at a title leaning towards the concept of time, which he confirmed to be legitimate queries. “If I were to put a parenthesis under that title, it’d be Subtitles For Feelings (Regarding Time,)” he said. “My whole journey as a person… I think all of us, we’re trying to make sense of our story as we go and often times we chop it up into this linear plane. We think today is condensed to today. But when you get to zoom out, you get to correspond with yourself.”
“I was up in Hudson Valley with my brother and a lot of what this journey has been is me and him musing the ether of our shared context, our shared time,” he expanded. “We were having a deep conversation… I said something that really hit him, and he responded trying to make sense of all his feelings. Then he stopped himself and said, ‘Man, I’m happy for you.’”
Unpacking that statement gave Droney his album title. “It’s this really amazing image of your life,” he said. “’This is the movie, man. This is it.’ We go back in time and we review the scenes of our life. With that context, we translate the subtitles for what they’re really trying to say.”
From All Corners
Musically, this album reiterates the idea of Droney as a pop/blues hybrid even more than State Of The Heart did. With 16 tracks totaling over an hour of runtime, Droney comes at the listener from all corners. “I have never been one to really be confined to a genre,” he said. “For me, I’m just trying to have a high level of offering in a pop context. I listen to stuff. Sometimes I want more, sometimes I’m like, ‘You nailed it!’”
“There are a lot of us out there whose first love was the guitar,” he said, tipping his hat to his contemporaries. “It’s really interesting to watch us take our different paths and how we choose to put the guitar in our music. As a songwriter, and a singer, how it has morphed into what I just consider my sound. How to use all these things and make your own colors.” On this record, those colors include a musical parallel to The 1975 on “Shotgun Rider,” an exemplary effort of contemporary R&B with “Limit,” solid adult-contemporary pop with lead single “Go Getter,” modern-electro pop on “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do,” pure Chris Stapleton-style country-blues on the epic closer “Wild Horses,” and more.
‘Excellence In Thought and Being’
While the constant shift of sounds and genres will keep the listener entertained, this project is all about the lyrics and messages. Lead single “Go Getter” discusses the rabbit hole of time: “There’s a word for that / When you’re standing there with time and it’s looking back / And it’s such a fine line down the cul-de-sac / Now you’re turning back.” On “Free,” one of Droney’s most visceral vocal performances on the record, he’s feeling light and alive in New York City: “I’m so happy I could die right now / So happy I could cry right now / Kinda makes me wanna feel out loud / Maybe we could meet downtown.”
It’s also a record of nostalgia (“Memories”, “2AM”), unearthing precious memories (“My Grandfather’s Home”), and an awareness of how fast times moves by (“We Got Old This Year.”) He makes multiple references to State Of The Heart, which he calls a “lifelong companion” that he is not ready to, and does not want to, leave behind.
One of the most prominent themes is exploring and maintaining the legacy of his grandfather, whose high school ring he now proudly bears. “My grandfather was this representation of what I consider excellence in thought and being,” he said. “He lived well. When he passed, I went back to his house. I followed my memory, went into his bathroom, pushed the dresser aside, and found this little cubby hole full of his handwritten journals. I opened one up and the first thing I read was an entry that said, ‘I have made peace with myself somewhere between my ambition and limitation. Therefore, I did the very best I could do, and no more.’ That statement really stuck with me and is a huge part of who I am.”
All of these themes, emotions, and stories are captured in the soaring power ballad “Wild Horses,” a juggernaut of a tune that seems to stop time in its tracks. Droney pours his heart and soul into it, but, just like the legends he was molded by, never fully depletes his arsenal: “Showed up to this funeral dressed in the usual / Black shoes and a hand-me-down tie / And I break down for a minute till the wind blew by to say / Maybe there ain’t no mistakes / Maybe there ain’t no mistakes / Maybe there ain’t no mistakes / We’re wild horses runnin… runnin.”
“The horse metaphor came to me from Eadweard Muybridge, the father of the motion picture,” he said. “Leland Stanford commissioned him to take a picture basically asking if, when a horse runs, do all the hooves move off the ground at once? Eadwaerd created this machine to take a sequence of photos… 26 photos in a row to make a frame. The horse, to me, represents time. A frame. If you take it away from that, we are all really running free in this life. At our highest selves, we are able to access what I feel as the source content of being. You don’t really get one without the other in this life. We’re going to get all of the colors under the sun, and our job is just to run through them.”
Subtitles For Feelings will be released on August 25.