Top Tracks: Samuel James Taylor – Wild Tales and Broken Hearts

We’re all the author of our own story, so long as we can muster the strength to tell the tale our hearts long to tell. It’s easier said than done though, admittedly. When you’re a young idealist it’s almost second nature to find joy in little things and believe that anything is possible, but as the years pass and life throws up more and more unexpected obstacles and setbacks, it’s only natural to be discouraged and feel that the days of adventure and ambition are behind you. ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’ offers a reminder that beyond every barricade lies a road less travelled. You’ve made it this far, so you owe it to yourself to remember what drove your idealistic self down that road to begin with, and to see the journey to its end. Tyke troubadour Samuel James Taylor turns his own story into one of resilience and passions reignited with this latest single. The title track from his forthcoming album, out 21st October, its spirited folk arrangement and heartening message to keep striving for the life you wanna live make it the ideal anthem to help you push through hardship and hold on to the dream of better days.

Top Tracks: Lily Agnes – Messy As My Mind

Whether it’s being stuck staring at the same four walls in lockdown, struggling to pull yourself out of a depressive hollow, or just another one of those sleepless nights, there are few things as demoralising as being left alone with your thoughts. It’s amazing all the unspoken fears, repressed insecurities, and memories best left forgotten that worm their way to the surface when you’ve no one but your own subconscious for company. Hard to be productive when your train of thought is bouncing around like a Roomba from one anxious worry to another; and it’s in these moments that we become our own worst critics, questioning every decision we’ve ever made. It’s a familiar situation for us all, but rarely has overthinking ever sounded this good. With ‘Messy As My Mind’ singer/songwriter Lily Agnes puts her own soulful stamp on those listless nights. Between the elegant jazz arrangement, intricate and expressive percussion, and Lily’s intoxicating vocals hitting your system like a shot of whisky, there’s no better track to help drown out those inner demons.

Top Tracks: Davis John Patton – Vacant Airport

Sometimes love isn’t about those that would rush to your side at a moments notice. Instead, true love is often about those that are still there by your side when everyone else is gone. It’s one thing to say “always” or “forever“, but it’s another to genuinely mean it and put it into practice. Iowa based singer/songwriter Davis John Patton captures this kind of commitment and devotion brilliantly with his new track ‘Vacant Airport’. Told through the metaphor of waiting at an empty terminal, completely deserted and devoid of life, for the one arrival that truly matters, it beautifully reflects the lofty romantic ideal of being the last one standing – that us-against-the-world mentality – through the lens of a small act of everyday love. It’s all delivered with an earnestness that leaves you in no doubt that Davis would wait a hundred years without a moment’s hesitation. Airy melodies, wistful bittersweet vocals, and with a soft introspection that recalls Hollow Coves and early Bon Iver, ‘Vacant Airport’ is an essential addition for your most mellow and reflective playlist.

Top Tracks: &Tilly – Unopen

In a way self-improvement and wanderlust are built on similar foundations; the faith that there’s something better waiting just over the horizon, and a sense of yearning to find a place where you belong. When you’re trying to reach a better place, within yourself or in a more literal sense, the first step is always the hardest. The bittersweet new song ‘Unopen’ from singer/songwriter duo &Tilly reflects on finding the courage to take that step, its title a play on words of an unopen personality throwing up walls, and an open road leading to a happier life. With hauntingly fragile vocals and bright percussive piano reminiscent of The Lumineers, it’s a track swimming in arresting melodies. Paired with the stunning cinematography of its marvellous monochrome video, all told ‘Unopen’ is a real delight. Whatever road you take, whatever walls need knocking down, the better life you’re looking for is one with this song in it.

Top Tracks: Francesca Louise – Odyssey

When we’re at our lowest, weighed down with loss and uncertainty, we find ourselves searching for answers. But often, the more desperately we search, we only end up finding further questions. We go through our lives assuming deep down there’s some rhyme and reason to everything, but in the face of terrible struggle and grief it’s easy to feel defeated and lose faith. Feeling swallowed up by the darkness, a single drop of water at the whim of a vast savage ocean, asking yourself: “does any of it really matter?”. But in a life so fragile, a mere speck in the wider picture, in truth there is more meaning to be found, not less. With her contemplative new single ‘Odyssey’, Belwood favourite Francesca Louise brings that meaning to light. This beautifully bittersweet and cathartic folk number reminds you that every moment is made all the more precious by the fact that it is fleeting. That every life that touches our own is a blessing, a miraculous chance encounter in endless space and time. And I for one count myself lucky to have had this particular fleeting moment of beauty cross my path.

Top Tracks: Kris Angelis – Win The Game

I’ve often heard it said that the mark of a great relationship is when there’s no fighting, but I don’t think that’s accurate. All couples fight, all partnerships will find themselves on opposite sides of an issue at some point or other, butting heads over the divide. What makes a great relationship is not letting every problem become a fight between the two of you, but recognising that the real fight is the two of you against the problem. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Opening with a haunting piano waltz that sounds like a tune from some magical music box, the new single ‘Win The Game’ from singer/songwriter Kris Angelis deals with the struggle of trying to be the bigger person. With its telling refrain of “I’d rather jump in and clean up the mess, than win the game of who cares less” it details the feeling of trying to turn your attention from the other person to the problem at hand, and ending up fighting a battle on two fronts. Captured in Kris’ elegant vulnerability is the truth of the matter; that the most important things in life are generally worth fighting for.

Top Tracks: Alex Francis – If I Can’t Have You

Glorious sun is beaming down, ice creams and cold beers are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and festival season will soon be kicking off in earnest – summer is officially here! Arguably our first proper summer with Covid in the rearview mirror. All we’re missing to complete the picture is that “song of the summer” to soundtrack the good times ahead. May I submit for your consideration ‘If I Can’t Have You’ from Belwood favourite Alex Francis. This wonderfully soulful outing from the Hertfordshire based singer/songwriter is all about the joyous release of realising what truly matters, throwing your fears aside and putting yourself out there in the pursuit of happiness. Exactly the vibe we’re looking for in our first summer of freedom. Residing at the perfect intersect between grit and polish, ‘If I Can’t Have You’ captures the timeless roots rock spirit of Muscle Shoals in its feel-good groove, and its sublime production ensures that every facet of the sunkissed arrangement and every word of Alex’s soulful vocals lands with maximum impact.

Top Tracks: Deathcruiser – Life Number Two

It’s never too late to turn your life around. To take an honest look at your past mistakes, destructive habits and obstructive mindset, and decide that it’s time to leave that version of yourself behind and start anew. That’s not to say it’s an easy task, it takes an immense amount of reflection, determination, patience and ultimately forgiveness, but no one is so far gone that they can’t become a better version of themselves, so long as the will to change is there. And it’s that push for a clean slate that we find so aptly captured in ‘Life Number Two’. This debut single from Deathcruiser, the new project from Grizfolk’s Adam Roth, is a gorgeous slice of Americana that celebrates the strength and goodwill inherent in the human spirit. Awash with warmth and romanticism, rather than erase the old self and reduce it to ashes, it is a song that offers encouragement and a helping hand to waltz your way into a better state of being. As both a soundtrack to the new you, and as a first taste of a forthcoming EP, it’s one deeply charming new beginning.

Top Tracks: Electric Candlelight – Don’t Turn

Everyone always seems to be pushing for something new, to make progress for progress’ sake, but I feel like folks are often too quick to overlook the tried and tested. In the world of fashion for instance, trends change and looks fall out of favour but eventually circle back around into fashion. And yet, no matter what the current buzz is about, certain styles (even those tied to a particular place and time) done well will always dazzle a crowd. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it; quality always shines through. The same is true of music, and with their latest single ‘Don’t Turn’ Philadelphia based band Electric Candlelight deliver a rollicking rock’n’roller from days gone by, exquisitely crafted to get your blood pumping and put a smile on your face. With gritty vocals reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival, groovy feel-good riffs with a mountain of momentum, and brilliant character driven lyrics detailing a mobster trying and failing to make an honest living, Electric Candlelight dress to impress with a song that will never go out of style.

Top Tracks: Francesca Louise – For Michael

Losing someone close to you is never easy, but processing all that grief through a creative medium like music can be a very comforting and healing experience. However, the thought of then sharing that work with the world that special person left behind can be a deeply daunting proposition. It’s hard enough to capture all the ways they left their mark on you, and the void their absence has left in your own life, but the truth is you’re only seeing but one facet of who they are. How can you capture everything a person was, everything they meant to those that loved them most? As much as we may want to, the simple answer is you can’t. But we can preserve in a song simply that they were loved and will be dearly missed, and perhaps that is enough, as no one is ever truly gone so long as they are remembered. ‘For Michael’ is just such a track – simple, sincere, warm and loving – not trying to quantify all that was lost, just carrying his memory into a new day. A gorgeous offering recalling the golden age of singer/songwriters, it’s the most haunting, soulful and heartfelt release yet from the fabulous Francesca Louise, and is sure to resonate with anyone else who has kept a candle burning for the ones we’ve lost.