Top Tracks: Bea Stewart – Ice Cream in the Rain

We all end up losing the people we love in the end. One day they’re by your side making the world a brighter place, and the next you’re left trying to navigate life without them. But as hard as sudden goodbyes are, there’s something especially harrowing about losing someone piece by piece. The new single from Northern Irish singer/songwriter Bea Stewart tells a story that will feel all too familiar to anyone that’s lost a loved one to dementia. The pain of seeing them slowly fade away, fearing the day when you may be forgotten completely. ‘Ice Cream in the Rain’ reflects on the good times together that disappear into haze as the memories fade. It finds solace in the fact you shared those moments in the first place, and offers a reminder that the person you knew still exists in those little vignettes exactly as you remember them. Between the beautifully bittersweet music video and Bea’s poignant retelling of her own personal story, it’s one of the most moving tracks you’re likely to come across in 2023.

Top Tracks: Jeremy Zucker – OK

The most common lie ever told is “I’m fine”. Barely a day goes by where we don’t say some words to that effect, but how often do we truly mean them. Sometimes it’s just easier to lie when someone asks how you’re doing than it is to burden them with all the stress or worry or pain that’s weighing you down. Sometimes it’s ourselves that we’re truly lying to – maybe if you just say you’re okay often enough, even when you’re not, it might be enough to make it so. When we’re at our lowest, most in need of help and yet most terrified to ask for it, somewhere deep down we long for someone to call our bluff. We long for someone to say “you’re not okay, not really, what’s wrong?”, but often everyone’s too busy keeping up their own façade to peer too closely at someone else’s. The new single from New Jersey born singer/songwriter Jeremy Zucker lovingly calls us on our bullshit, and offers the helping hand and comforting words that we’re too damn proud to ask for. Everyone’s struggling with something, and ‘OK’ as such strives to be a song for everyone. From its lush sun-drenched arrangement, to the solace that can be found in the empathetic and compassionate lyricism, here’s a radiant and heartfelt track I’d recommend to anyone going through a rough time to help keep the dark clouds at bay.

Top Tracks: Durry – Who’s Laughing Now

They say the only certain things in life are death and taxes, but I think our days are filled with much more certainty than that. Too much in fact. Waking up in the same suburb, driving the same route, to grind away at the same 9-5 job, and repeat ad infinitum. Adulthood is telling ourselves “just gotta make it through this week” every damn week until we’re old and grey. Surely any sane person would long for more? Surely it’s only natural to need some creative outlet to cling to as a means of escape, and to hope one day that passion will yield a way out of the stifling suburbs? According to some, apparently not; it’s not enough to push a rock uphill forever, you have to enjoy it. The new single from brother and sister duo Durry, taken from their forthcoming debut Suburban Legend out 8th September, looks at how hard it is to be a dreamer when any attempt to break the mould is met with derision. With its self-aware music video, earnest alt-rock and pop-punk sensibilities, and relatable lyricism, ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ began life as a cynical jab at the futility of it all, but took on new life as a hopeful battle cry against mundanity when the song’s demo went viral – living proof that persevering and following your passion can pay off.

Top Tracks: Martin Luke Brown – See You Later x

Hitting a major milestone in life often makes you reflect on the people who helped get you there. Being a long-time collaborator with numerous Belwood favourites, I’m sure the marvellous Martin Luke Brown has a veritable who’s-who on the thank you notes for his long awaited debut album Damn, Look At The View!, which sees him at long last take centre stage. Thing is, when running down the list of people who’ve made it down this road with you, it’s hard not to also think on all the people who you’ve parted ways with. We lose more people in our lives than the ones we keep by our side, but these partings rarely come with some big goodbye. Whether it’s loved ones who pass away, or friends we slowly lose touch with until we’re no longer in each other’s lives – whether burning out or fading away, there’s simply no way of knowing which goodbye will ultimately be the last. But every person we meet, no matter how long they’re with us, still leaves a mark on our lives all the same. The wistful nostalgia of ‘see you later x’ is a lament for all the unsaid goodbyes and partings left unmarked, but above all it’s a heartfelt thank you from Martin Luke Brown to everyone that’s played a part in his journey.

Top Tracks: Ålesund – Rode Off Into The Sun

Every ending has the chance to become a new beginning. Each mistake presents an opportunity to learn and grow and become a better you. Every void left behind by the things we lose in life can be filled with something new. They say the best revenge against the people who hurt us is a life well lived, and the same is true of every frustrating mishap, cruel twist of fate or inner demon intent on ruining your day. The only thing standing between you and a better tomorrow is finding the strength to let the past lie and keep pushing forward. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but with their latest single, Bristol band Ålesund show how one person’s resilience can be the inciting spark for those around them to find their own inner strength. Building from its humble opening toward a climax of emphatic drums and triumphant brass, ‘Rode Off Into The Sun’ reflects admiringly on a friend’s ability to leave their burdens behind in troubled times and resolve to start a new chapter full of better things. It’s a song takes that infectious and inspiring positivity and pays it forward, providing an uplifting spark to help overcome adversity and seek a brighter tomorrow.

Spotlight!: Lily Agnes

How do you make a great album? Perhaps it involves songs coming together to tell a story, perfectly capturing a mood or theme, maybe doing something fresh and experimental, or simply packing it start to finish with big accessible hits. People have found and forged many alternate paths to make great albums over the years. But EPs are a different story. They are a relatively newer format, often lacking the same attention and prestige, and one which has primarily been used by up-and-coming artists. As such we’re presented with a far narrower path to take towards what makes a great EP. It needs to tell you all you need to know about an artist, and leave you wanting to hear more. A mission statement of their creative ambitions; well-rounded enough to showcase the broadest possible range of their talents, yet restrained enough to leave listeners longing for whatever may come next. Continue reading

Tickets Please!: Why we need a return to physical gig tickets

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There are, admittedly, a lot of things wrong with the state of the modern music industry. The closure of grassroots venues, criminally low pay-outs for streams, the way the charts are bought and sold by big labels, and ticket company monopolies charging fans extortionate fees to name just a few! But I like to think we’re all entitled from time to time to some petty little hill that we’re adamant to die upon, no matter how inconsequential it may be in the grand scheme of things. Some molehill that we’re determined to make into a mountain. That cause for me as of late has been the disheartening decline of proper physical concert tickets. Continue reading

Top Tracks: The Last Dinner Party – Nothing Matters

There is plenty of music out there that could be called “style over substance”, but ‘Nothing Matters’ defies this idea by being so stylish that it takes on substance. The Last Dinner Party’s debut single shows the band’s confidence overflowing yet fully earned and justified, their aesthetic so finely curated and yet worn with such casual and naturalistic charisma, a preposterous conflux of different stylistic elements whose perfect fusion still somehow comes across as effortless. Abigail Morris’ velveteen vocals lending an air of elegance worthy of a Jane Austen adaptation, a command of melody in the verses with the infectious theatricality of an Alan Menken soundtrack. The quirkiness of Kate Bush and the vulgar playfulness of Wet Leg dressed up in an aloof and beguiling gothic exterior, with a grand and soaring guitar solo acting as the perfect capstone for this debut single’s magnetic appeal. With ‘Nothing Matters’ The Last Dinner Party have crafted a track so charming that it collapses in on itself like a black hole to create a point of infinite stylishness whose pull is impossible to resist.