Top Tracks: Freddy Hall – That’s What You Do

I think I’ll always be awed by the power people find in music to express themselves and share what’s in their heart. Sometimes it’s hard to get a grasp on what we’re feeling, let alone share it with someone else. But in using music as an artistic outlet, something about the process not only aids looking inwards, but also helps you find the words to describe what you find there. The sincere balladry of ‘That’s What You Do’ is a prime example: it details the whirlwind of fear and anxiety that precedes coming out; taking this heart-wrenching torrent of emotional uncertainty, by its very nature something almost impossible to articulate without your voice catching in your throat, and lays it all out clear as day. It’s a testament to the cathartic power of music, but more so to the songwriting talents of Freddy Hall. To bare your soul to the world is admirable in itself, but to translate all that pain and doubt that plagued you into something this breathtakingly elegant is the mark of something special.

Top Tracks: Mo Klé – Signs

While I’ll always appreciate a song that grows and shifts through the course of its runtime, there’s something to be said for the kind of song that just bursts out of the starting block fully formed with all its splendour on full display. ‘Signs’ is just such a track. This isn’t sitting back and letting a work of art slowly form before you brushstroke by brushstroke, this is a vibrant cascade of colour rippling outward like a shockwave as soon as brush touches canvas. This track from Swiss singer/songwriter René Grünenfelder, released under his moniker Mo Klé, just drops you right in the middle of its dazzling soundscape and gives you the guided tour of its wonders. The soft airy atmosphere breezes past you like a living watercolour, its blissful haze contrasted beautifully by the driving beat and soaring guitars that urge you to push you ever deeper into the wilderness. An absolute must for any wanderlust playlist worth its salt; the perfect soundtrack to your next adventure along the open road.

Top Tracks: Quiet Sonia – Fragments

I’ve heard it said that art is how we decorate space, while music is how we decorate time. But some pieces of music seem to almost bend time to their own designs in a way that goes far beyond mere decoration. Some music can leave you so absorbed, that an age can pass and yet feel only like a fleeting moment. ‘Fragments’, from Copenhagen based chamber rock outfit Quiet Sonia, is just such a track. Though it takes you on a journey, it does not whisk you away with any sense of urgency. It’s a slow burner that shifts gradually from one elegant vignette to the next, while savouring the stillness in between. The deep brooding baritone of Nikolaj Bruus, reflective stream of consciousness style lyricism reminiscent of latter day Nick Cave, the interplay of cinematic strings, bright piano melodies and soft autumnal folk guitar; all these elements unfurl slowly to reveal their beauty. And yet, somehow, this sparse and sprawling eight minute opus feels so ephemeral and fleeting that you can’t help but want to stay awhile longer all the same.

Top Tracks: Braden Lam – White Dress

Love has a way of enduring. Its roots run deep, entwined within our very souls, sometimes to the point where that connection can feel like a defining part of who you are. In the best of worlds, where that connection is shared, it produces a love that can weather the harshest storms. But for a love lost or unrequited, it means it can linger and hold you back from moving on, blooming again when you thought it long withered and gone. ‘White Dress’, the latest single from Canadian singer/songwriter Braden Lam, is a story about the inner upheaval of attending your best friend’s wedding and wishing you were the one up there with them. Allowing yourself one last moment to dream of a future that will never be, and grieve for a love that never was, before uprooting your entangled heart to free yourself for whatever comes next. With vocals reminiscent of Belwood favourites Amber Run, a chorus teeming with charm, and the odd line that will floor you if it catches you just right, this wistful waltz is a gorgeous epitaph for a love finally laid to rest. 

Top Tracks: James Crowley – Kerosene

I remember once reading a piece of advice for social anxiety that said: when you walk into a room you imagine everyone analysing you intently, yet when someone else walks in the room you personally wouldn’t give them a second thought. And it’s true, that sort of deep reading we imagine from everyone’s gaze is the kind of thing most of us reserve for the people we’re most invested in. It’s often only when someone has your heart in the palm of their hand that you search for the significance in every gesture, the connection in every passing glance, the deeper meaning behind every word. In a sense, the bittersweet haze of ‘Kerosene’ is about the opposite of our walk-in-the-room scenario; looking into someone’s eyes hoping to see that same devoted gaze staring back at you, and instead seeing the cool aloof glance of a stranger. That realisation of the other person not being as invested in the relationship, and that fear you’ll always be the one looking for meaning where there is none, is expertly captured in the haunting mellotron swells and withdrawn, distant vocal effects. Anyone that’s known what it’s like to long for a deeper connection will almost certainly find something to connect with here.

Top Tracks: Hannah Grace – Always Been a Dreamer

I’ve heard it said that youth is wasted on the young, and I think in a way the same is true about Christmas. While there’s undeniably something precious and magical about Christmas morning as a kid, it’s also the case that the whole world seems a lot more magical when viewed through the eyes of a child. So much of that fades as we grow older, the spark dims as we get swept up in the seriousness of adult life and the responsibilities that come with it. With all the stress and expense of the holidays, it would be all too easy to let childish dreams fall by the wayside at Christmas as they already have in so many other facets of our lives. With her new festive single ‘Always Been a Dreamer’, the sensational Hannah Grace shares the desire to cling on tightly to that last bit of magic. Taking time out with those we love, giving generously just to spread joy, hoping and believing, for that short while, in a better world. When we spend the bulk of our days flitting between humdrum and hardship, a little bit of wonder can go a long way. And with an arrangement that sparkles and shimmers like the most angelic of lights, and vocals as warm and comforting as a cosy evening by a roaring fire, Hannah’s latest is nothing short of wonderful.

Top Tracks: Ren Lawton – Cold Afternoon

Where has the time gone? Summer fell away into to autumn while our backs were turned, and now winter is waiting just around the corner. Life just seems to move by at a relentless pace, days slipping between your fingers like grains of sand. And with Christmas creeping ever closer, for many of us it’s the busiest time of year. But at least we can say, waiting at the end of it, is some well earned respite. A rare moment of peace and togetherness worth cherishing. With it’s delicate waltzing folk arrangement, airy vocals and warm subtle whispers of harmonica, this new festive fare from Belwood favourite Ren Lawton perfectly captures the quiet beauty of the festive season. For me, ‘Cold Afternoon’ embodies that blissful limbo between Christmas and New Year; that period where time loses all meaning, where the deadlines and responsibilities you chart your life by seem to just fall by the wayside, and instead all that matters is being surrounded by the people you hold dear. Like a glance through a frosty window at some picturesque Christmas vignette, the charming intimate reverie of ‘Cold Afternoon’ is just the thing to warm your heart on a busy winter’s day.

Live Review: Porcupine Tree, Wembley Arena, 11th Nov 2022

Photo by Joe del Tufo

I’m not usually the kind of music fan that thinks “if only I’d been around to see them live”. I’d much rather spend my energy being thankful for the amazing gigs I’ve been lucky enough to attend over the years, than fretting about the multitude of acts that passed me by. But one notable exception has always been Porcupine Tree. The rich textured atmospheres, the juggernaut riffs, the memorable and melodious hooks, that haunting balance between bleak and beautiful – the band was a perfect storm of intriguing ingredients that all combined to form a sound completely their own. They were one of the formative bands of my teenage years, and yet sadly had already called it a day as a band by the time I discovered them. Though I’ve dabbled in various side projects and solo work over the years, none of those records ever truly scratched that PT itch. But after twelve long years finally came the announcement of a new album, and with it an accompanying tour – a chance I never thought I’d get to see one of my favourite bands, can’t say no to that, can you? Continue reading

Top Tracks: Tommy Ashby – Not That Far To Go

Anyone prone to overthinking, that often finds themselves gripped by worries in the small hours, will have been told at many different points over the years “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Don’t let trivial things weigh on your mind when they’re nothing more than fleeting moments in time. The trouble is, fleeting moments are all we have. Life is nothing but a constant stream of the small stuff, tiny mosaic pieces of our time spent on this Earth. With his new single ‘Not That Far To Go’, Scottish singer/songwriter Tommy Ashby offers a fresh perspective on those fleeting fragments that occupy our thoughts. Against a serene haze akin to a misty morning, with a driving rhythm and lush comforting melodies, the track implores you to dedicate as much of your attention to the ephemeral flashes of joy that make life worth living as you do those anxious thoughts that dwell on things that can’t be changed. The small stuff is all we have, so we owe it to ourselves to experience all aspects of it. Being lost and afraid is part of being human, allow yourself to feel it, just don’t let it get in the way of the bigger picture.