Top Tracks: Michael Lane – Coming Home

What truly is “home”? Is it the place where our bed is, the building that contains most of our possessions, the house we spend more time in than any other? Is it the same four walls we’ve been staring at while in lockdown for most of the year? When you think about it, home needn’t be connected to just one place, home is wherever you make it. It’s wherever you find safety, peace and comfort, it’s how you feel when you’re surrounded by the people that love you, it’s your sanctuary from the outside world. Home isn’t four walls, it’s a feeling of contentment and meaning that you can carry with you. The new track from Michael Lane not only serves to remind us of that fact, but also offers a taste of how it feels. He breathes blissfully vivid imagery into every line of this track; birdsong and babbling brooks, forests and fireflies, sunsets and the smile of your dearest love as you walk hand in hand. All set against a musical backdrop of soothing and contemplative folk, ‘Coming Home’ provides the very refuge it describes, and reminds us not to take the small moments of quiet joy for granted.

Top Tracks: Rett Madison – Kerosene

Did you know that scientists can’t even begin to match the computing power of the human brain? We’ve seen technology advancing at an astonishing rate over the past few decades, but our own minds are still the most complex machines that we know of. Even 100 years from now we still might not be able to surpass what nature itself has made. Songs like ‘Kerosene’ make me look at music in much the same way. Hearing LA based artist Rett Madison’s vocals on this track, it strikes me that even after centuries of work from skilled craftsmen and artists we are yet to make an instrument to equal the human voice. Rett’s voice is the centrepiece of this track, and with it we are gifted with a gentle and charming country twang alongside stunning soulful crescendos. Between the pain, doubt and vulnerability you can feel in your very heart in the song’s softer moments, and the defiant, passionate force-of-nature chorus that fills the room, you’re left feeling caught in a maelstrom of emotion being dragged deeper with each listen. I can’t think of any instrument made by human hands that can do all that, can make you feel all that, but an incredible voice at the disposal of a supremely talented artist can do all kinds of miraculous things beyond our understanding.

Top Tracks: Cristina Hart – Bad Girlfriend

Belwood favourite Cristina Hart is back with another brilliantly addictive hit of polished pop taken from her forthcoming debut EP. While her last stunning single ‘I’m A Mess‘ talked about how we try to flaunt some flawless facade to the world and hide all our struggles away, her latest liberating bop ‘Bad Girlfriend’ takes the idea a step further. At no point do we try harder to pretend that we’re perfect than at the start of a relationship. The stakes are never higher than when you have someone new in your life that you’re keen to impress, and so you strain to hide away all your flaws as you fear any one of them could tip the scales and scare them away. At times you may even find yourself dwelling on how past relationships fell apart, and end up focusing more on stopping history from repeating itself than on the new love that’s blooming right in front of you. Cristina shows wisdom beyond her years in embracing the honest, open and unapologetic approach to love; recognising that if it’s meant to be then they won’t run from emotional baggage, but rather help carry the weight. If you’re busy hiding away who you really are then they’ll never love the real you, and when you truly love someone you do so faults and all.

Top Tracks: Alex Francis – Run

“Wishing that I had you here, tired of talking via satellite” – a very familiar feeling in 2020. Being apart from friends and family has been the worst part of quarantine. Such a sense of isolation and detachment from all you hold dear is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. To willingly embrace such separation would therefore be a pretty crazy thing to do, but then love makes people do crazy things. ‘Run’, the new single from the brilliant Alex Francis, is all about life in a long distance relationship, and just how far people will go for the chance that it may all work out in the end. While the track shines thanks to Alex’s soulful vocals, and a soft echoey guitar solo that serves to emphasise the distance and disconnect, what really steals the show here is the lyrics. Alex manages to find all the right words to capture many different facets of the plight felt by long distance lovers. The fear that comes with leaving yourself so open and vulnerable, and the constant longing for all the myriad moments of closeness that you’re forever missing out on. Everyone telling you that it will never work, even that nagging voice in the back of your head, but ultimately fighting with all you’ve got to beat the odds and prove the world wrong, because deep in your heart you know that it’s a love worth fighting for.

Top Tracks: Morning Arcade – Cold Shoulders

It’s been a while since I last came across a band that packed so much into their debut single as Cardiff’s Morning Arcade. These Welsh wonders certainly pull no punches with ‘Cold Shoulders’, determined to show the world who they are and what they can do right from the off. With a driving beat and gorgeous hazy melodies forming a strong foundation, the track already does plenty to get you hooked just in the first couple of minutes, before the band decide to kick it up a notch. It’s here that ‘Cold Shoulders’ launches into a searing guitar solo with an expansive overdriven Americana tone that will delight fans of The War On Drugs. Not content merely launching you in the stratosphere, the band close the track by letting you drift away high above the world with some lush and expansive dream pop thrown in for good measure. Morning Arcade certainly don’t rest on their laurels when it comes to lyrics either. Not content to play it safe, the track calls attention to the ever looming threat of environmental disaster and the pervasive indifference holding society back from building a better world. One part late night driving anthem, one part blissful lullaby, and one part defiant call for action; if Morning Arcade can do all that with one song then just imagine what they could do with a full album further down the line. 

Top Tracks: Brass Phantoms – Hurricane

If we think of the process of writing a song as being like cooking a delicious meal, often the greatest recipes come from blending different flavours together. Combinations that perhaps you wouldn’t have first thought would work but end up complimenting each other in unexpected ways. It’s in that contrast, in refusing to compromise and allowing two extremes to flourish alongside each other rather than compete for attention, that you can often happen upon something special. By this measure the new single from Dublin’s Brass Phantoms is a delicacy well worth sinking your teeth into. ‘Hurricane’, taken from their forthcoming debut album Holding Out For Horrors out 18th September, is a brilliant example of light and shade at work. Juxtaposing a dark and intricate post punk rhythm section, with snaking bass lines and sharp expressive drum work, against light and breezy indie riffs, soaring solos and anthemic earworm melodies, serves to ensure that both sides of the coin shine brighter than they would do alone. ‘Hurricane’ shows two styles working in tandem; the dark writhing storm clouds and low rumbling thunder, and the energetic lightning racing across the sky; to create a real force of nature.

Top Tracks: Henry Nozuka – Into The Wild

Sometimes you just hear the perfect song for a particular time and place and it’s as though the planets have aligned. Being snuggled up warm in bed as I write these words, whilst the wind and rain batters against my window, somehow feels like the ideal setting for Henry Nozuka’s ‘Into The Wild’. With a contemplative autumnal folk sound drawing influence from Nick Drake, this first single from the Canadian singer/songwriter’s forthcoming debut album Ember of the Night offers an enchantingly idyllic refuge. It’s the kind of song you listen to as a form of escapism, a role it fulfills so well that you’ll lose count of how many times you’ve had it on repeat and time itself will feel as though it’s lost all meaning. Each time you press play and truly listen, closing your eyes and opening your heart, you’re gifted with one of two different escapes. Either you allow the vivid imagery to whisk you away to a serene and surreal dream world, or the intimate arrangement will have you feeling that Henry is right there in the room with you. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been laid here listening to this song, how many times I’ve indulged in each escape it offers, but I can tell you that it was worth every second.