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.

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.

Top Tracks: Cristina Hart – Never Be Her

If the measure of an emotion is in how hard it is to keep contained, then jealousy is surely one of the strongest. Raw and seething, like a broiling cauldron set to overflow, drawing on all your fears and deepest insecurities for ammunition, it can all too easily overcome you if you let it. Belwood favourite Cristina Hart instead manages to channel all that fire and venom into forging her best single to date. ‘Never Be Her’ takes the relatable self-aware lyricism and irresistible hooks we’ve come to know and love, and just turns the passion and drive up a few notches with a snappy, volatile pop punk arrangement reminiscent of Olivia Rodrigo at her very best. Offering a cathartic release for that awful toxic feeling that burns in your veins upon seeing your ex with someone new, it also serves as a welcome reminder not to put others on a pedestal, especially when you find yourself putting your own flaws under the microscope. A toxin as potent as jealousy needs to be cleared out before we can find room to grow, and there’s no better release that comes to mind than this electrifying indie pop anthem.

Top Tracks: Natalie Shay – Heaven

I think most people, when asked what they’d wish for if they had one wish, would tend to fall back on the same few answers: wealth, love, fame etc. In close contention however, is the option of a second chance. Seemingly more so now than ever, we all find ourselves longing to be able to share with our younger selves all that we’ve come to know and learn. The answers to the questions we struggled with, the lessons that we learned through hardship, the mistakes we now look back on older and wiser. To be able to know those things you stress about won’t matter in the end, to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in a dark place, to be able to see yourself reaching heights you thought you’d never reach or carrying a weight you thought you could never bear. That’s priceless. With ‘Heaven’ Belwood favourite Natalie Shay shares with her younger self all the growth and self-discovery that recent years have brought. Taken from her new EP MILK, her words share the personal journey of how she’s grown as a person, and in the exemplary pop songwriting all can hear plain as day just how much she’s grown as an artist these past few years.

Top Tracks: The A.M.s – Smoke

Each and every moment is, by its very nature, fleeting. Try as we might to long to hold on a little longer, time must inevitably march on; as futile as trying to catch smoke, it will always slip through your fingers eventually. But smoke lingers – it hangs in the air, clings on to whatever refuge it can find, and remains long after the last embers have dulled to ash. A moment may pass, but sometimes the memory of it can last a lifetime. Americana duo The A.M.s have elegantly captured that wistful sense of reminiscence and reflection with the latest single from their forthcoming debut album Ignite The Sky. Combining bright piano tones, a dash of jazz in its intricate and engaging percussion, and an expressive autumnal folk arrangement that evokes Nick Drake, ‘Smoke’ is a warm and welcoming recollection of treasured nights of togetherness shared around the campfire. Much as those last few wisps of smoke still persist, so too does this track stay with you.

Top Tracks: The Little Kicks – Right To Be Here

No one else tears us down half as much as that little voice in the back of our own minds. The one that tries to convince you that you’ll fall flat on your face every time you step out of your comfort zone, the one that belittles and trivializes your every accomplishment, the one that says you’re perpetually two steps behind everyone else. It’s something we all hear nattering away on the side-lines now and then, but it becomes all the louder when working in a creative industry like music. Imposter syndrome works overtime to undermine everything you’ve built. With ‘Right To Be Here’ Aberdeen indie outfit The Little Kicks offer a firm and defiant stand against that debilitating fear and doubt. Taken from their forthcoming album People Need Love, out 30th September, the Scottish rockers’ latest single boasts warm soulful vibes, an understated funky groove, and a sense of elegance and grandeur to its immaculately produced arrangement that all comes to a head in its uplifting climax. In an age of doubt and self-deprecation, taking pride in yourself becomes a radical act, and never before has that particular sin sounded quite so heavenly.

Top Tracks: Lizzie Reid – Love Of Her Life

When you first have your heart broken, it feels like a fierce storm is raging all through your body. A force of nature, wild and unpredictable, let loose: from the grey fog that clouds your mind, the dropping pressure in the empty pit in your stomach, to the stabs of pain in your tender heart like flashes of lightning. There’s so much disruption and upheaval that even the parts of your life you thought most enduring may form cracks down to their very foundations. ‘Love Of Her Life’, the new single from Scottish singer/songwriter Lizzie Reid, isn’t about the fury of the tempest. Instead this track from her upcoming EP Mooching, out August 31st, deals with the eerie stillness that follows. That period after the initial heartbreak where you can survey the damage with a fresh, wiser perspective now the dust has settled. Picking up the pieces and doing your best to move forward. Lizzie’s tender, wistful vocals take centre stage, with the soft and subtle arrangement punctuated with sublime bluesy riffs that pierce the calm like the rumble of distant thunder.

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.