Top Tracks: Caleb Kopta – Foreign Language

My first listen of ‘Foreign Language’ was almost enough to make me do the auditory equivalent of a double take. We’ve been big fans of Caleb’s wanderlust inducing Americana, so this foray into synth driven territory marks an ambitious shift in sound. Altogether more lush and nuanced, it builds upon layered synths, expressive bass tones and atmospheric guitar textures to construct a song that feels very much like being a small figure in a big world. Walking the streets of a sprawling city aglow with neon lights in search of something real. Lyrically it seems fitting that it deals with our over-reliance on technology to form and maintain connections, almost like a nostalgic look back on his own work and the simple life of the open road. Caleb nails his new sound with real flair and conviction, but still carries with him a knack for potent hooks and addictive melodies.

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Top Tracks: Mars Motel – Coming Up For Air

There are so many songs about love, or loss, or everyday life. It feels good every now and then to delve into a song like ‘Coming Up For Air’ that elects to break the mould and play around with different ideas and narratives. This first cut from Mars Motel’s debut album Passenger X tells the tale of an android longing to be human and trying to change to find acceptance. Whether you take the story at face value, or use it as a mirror for our own need to connect and be understood, it is a unique and fascinating foundation to build a song upon. The music built around the story offers up a great blend of retro 80s vibes, bright and airy indie soundscapes, and perfectly polished pop melodies. The winding bass line gives the track an inescapable energy, and it carries the kind of infectious hooks that stay with you all day.

Top Tracks: Jaz Ellington – Don’t Run

A great voice can easily steal the spotlight and be the highlight of a song. When it comes to ‘Don’t Run’ however, Jaz Ellington’s voice is the song. It is woven into the very soul of the track, feeling like a full band in itself rather than just a single element. Whether it is in the soothing softer tones that you can feel brush against your skin like fine silk, or in the resounding calls to the heavens that command your attention and seem to make the very ground tremble, Jaz pulls out all the stops on this latest single. I don’t know many songs that can both shatter you with an imposing wall of sound, and then nurse all the pieces back together with a gentle caress the way that ‘Don’t Run’ does. A voice is an instrument like any other and Jaz is clearly a master of his craft.

Top Tracks: Ben McKelvey – Wild Child

We all have to live with thoughts of “what could have been” in our lives. You can follow your dreams, and ultimately be on the right path, and still face regrets along the way. It’s just life in a nutshell. That’s the sentiment that comes across in this superb song from singer/songwriter Ben McKelvey. ‘Wild Child’ talks of music as a calling. It’s not always as glamorous as it seems, life on the road means missing out on a lot of opportunities and it can tear relationships apart, but that’s a sacrifice that has to be made sometimes. To do otherwise would mean denying a part of who you are. Some people are just born with music running through their veins and Ben certainly seems like one of them, especially considering how he plays every instrument on the track. Immediately reminiscent of The Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner with its relentless energy and heart-on-sleeve lyricism, and afternoon spent listening to this on repeat is one thing that you won’t regret.

Top Tracks: Holly Henderson – Loneliness

Tackling the ever-present paradox of modern times, of being “more connected than ever, and at the same time, totally alone”, the new single from Holly Henderson calls out for freedom from a prison of our own design. With this track from her forthcoming debut album Monday Green, out 7th June, she offers her view on how we are all just a tap of a button away from each other, but have allowed ourselves to lose touch of the personal, physical connection that gives it all purpose. How we’ve become so fascinated with maintaining a glossy internet alter-ego but get nothing tangible or meaningful in return. Though it is a feeling that is often depicted as being cold and empty, Holly’s take on ‘Loneliness’ breaks the mould with its fiery, unbridled energy. With fierce riffs, propulsive percussion, a dash of psychedlica, and Holly’s passionate vocals, ‘Loneliness’ has no trouble smashing down barriers to make a deep connection.

Top Tracks: The Howl & The Hum – Hall of Fame

It is a rare delight when a band that you have high expectations for manage to go above and beyond with a new release, and Belwood favourites The Howl & The Hum have really outdone themselves on their latest single. ‘Hall of Fame’ just launches itself at you right from the blocks with its machine gun percussion and robust post punk riffs, before softening into a vibrant whirl of nostalgic synth tones and bright melodies. It gets your blood pumping with the initial change before immersing you a kaleidoscopic torrent of positive energy. Songwriting has always been the band’s greatest strength, and while it boasts brilliant festival-ready hooks, the lyricism in the verses is ‘Hall of Fame’s greatest triumph. It’s so hard to play favourites; you could sit and argue with yourself all afternoon over what line bowls you over the most. It’s the first major contender for song of the year, and it’s gonna take some beating!

Top Tracks: wojtek the bear – tonic youth

It is said that comparison is the thief of joy, and such sage advice is especially worth noting in today’s media focused society. The latest single from this Scottish quartet looks at seeing people living their best life, seeing people born with a head-start in life finding greater opportunity than yourself, and feeling left behind. A sense of wasted chances, of time poorly spent, of looking at others and wondering “could I be where they are if I had just done things differently?”. It’s a heavy topic to be sure, but ‘tonic youth’ delivers it within such a wonderful wave of positive energy so as to soften the blow. The bright guitar melodies and driving bass line give it real momentum, while the sublime strings just dance circles all over the track. The uplifting musicianship alone is enough to convince me that time spent listening to ‘tonic youth’ is by far and away time well spent.