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always be the one looking for meaning where there is none, is expertly captured in the haunting mellotron swells and withdrawn, distant vocal effects.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.

Live Review: Maggie Rogers, O2 Academy Leeds, 31st Oct 2022

Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain – believed to be the day when we’re at our closest to the other side, when the spirits of the departed rise and walk the Earth. What a fitting gig then for such a momentous part of the calendar, as there are few artists I know better at raising your spirits than Maggie Rogers. Last I saw her, going in blind and uninitiated to her headline slot at Barn on the Farm 2019, was hands down one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. Gracing the stage with such energy and enthusiasm that she felt like a force of nature, I was left completely bewitched and couldn’t wait to see her again. But wait I did, and one pandemic later the stars aligned for the first date of The Feral Joy Tour to fall on my favourite holiday… spooky! Continue reading

Interview: Jenny Kern

A silver lining of heartbreak is that it provides an opportunity to know ourselves better. To understand the mistakes we made and where we went wrong, to recognise our needs and desires and how best to fulfil them, to realise which parts of the relationship most left their mark on us and which moments were taken for granted. In essence it’s a chance to reminisce on the memories shared and a chance to learn and grow as a person moving forward. That’s the message at the heart of Your Heart Knows – the bittersweet new EP from Canadian-born Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Jenny Kern, and her most enchanting collection of songs to date. Having followed her career from the introspective folk of her debut single, to the stunning cinematic synthpop of this latest release, it feels like high time we got to know this Belwood favourite a little better too. Continue reading

Live Review: Bon Iver, Leeds Arena, 19th Nov 2022

When I was younger I definitely went to a lot more gigs completely on a whim. Heading off to see a band just because I could, just because they were there! Cramming concerts into already busy schedules without a thought for repercussions. Picking up tickets for gigs without it ever entering into my head how I plan on getting there and back. I’d like to think I’m older and wiser… but I’m still terribly forgetful when it comes to the logistics of getting to gigs. I’ll admit however that these days my gig going schedule has a lot more purpose – ticking off the list of acts I wanna see before I die, prioritising certain tours to better the chances of hearing my favourite tracks etc. But you need to do something in a spur of the moment every now and then, right? And seeing Bon Iver was one of my best “heat of the moment” gig experiences. Continue reading