Top Tracks: Liv Harris – Hideaway

We all need somewhere safe to retreat to when the world is getting us down. A sanctuary to call our own when life gets hard. Whether it’s somewhere physical, curled up under the covers with a hot chocolate and your favourite film, or a haven within your own mind to escape to, like a cherished memory to bring you solace and comfort. The debut single from promising singer/songwriter Liv Harris doesn’t just describe such an escape, but also provides one for the listener. ‘Hideaway’ starts with little more than Liv’s airy vocals and a bright and elegant piano, but soon builds into something far more anthemic and uplifting with its nuanced and atmospheric electronica. What begins as merely light shining through the cracks soon grows into a dazzling beacon to banish the darkness that clouds your mind. It’s the kind of song where you don’t know whether you want to broadcast it to the whole world or keep it all for yourself as your own little secret escape.

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Top Tracks: Simon Alexander – Move Steady

We all have a touch of wanderlust in our youth. A thirst for adventure, a yearning for a change of scenery, a longing to see more of the world than just the same familiar patch we see every day. It’s easy to see the appeal, but the reality of seeking new endeavours often isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Swedish singer/songwriter Simon Alexander leads you down just such an uncertain path on his new single ‘Move Steady’, taken from his forthcoming EP In The Rust. Channeling a bit of Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind, this fine piece of folk pop details the toll that comes with leaving your life behind. Not only are you diving headfirst into a strange new world, you also leave behind a big part of what made you who you are. Even with someone by your side to share the experience it can be a challenging road to follow. There are plenty of songs out there that revel in the allure in the open road; it’s refreshing to hear an artist be so open and honest about the doubts and struggles that come with it.

Top Tracks: Ryan McMullan – Rebellion

There are songs out there to express every conceivable emotion. Songs about a new love that makes you feel like you could fly, songs venting ire at a broken system that make you want to take to the streets, songs about feeling broken and alone for when you just want to curl up in bed and escape reality. Whatever emotion that makes you want to cry out to the world, there’s a song to cry out with you. But what about the times when a cathartic release is beyond reach? The times when you have to hold back the fire inside and put on a brave face, when you have to force a smile to hide the tempest in your mind threatening to tear you apart. That’s where singer/songwriter Ryan McMullan comes in with his new single ‘Rebellion’, taken from his forthcoming debut album due next year. This poignant dose of pop not only deals with all the pent-up frustration, but does so with a mastery of infectious hooks and earworm melodies to rival the likes of Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. It’s a brilliant release from a real breakout star in the making.

Top Tracks: Joe Hicks – Swim

Journey to the coast in your mind, down by the waves“. These days the kind of escapism offered by ‘Swim’ is needed more and more. When the world is at its most bleak and absurd, you can spend a few minutes walking in Joe Hicks’ shoes: along a quiet coastline bathed in the golden light of morning, hand in hand with the one you love. They say the best writers explore all the senses. Not just the sights and sounds, but the sensations against your skin and the emotions bubbling away beneath it. Joe does an exemplary job of capturing the dizzying rush of thoughts and feelings in such a scene. Are those goosebumps from the clawing cold water or from the touch of her skin against yours. Is that rising warm glow as you walk upon the shore down to the first rays of the summer sun or the sight of her smile. Are you feeling weightless because of the rise and fall of the waves, or because love has given you wings. The perfect marriage of gold standard lyricism and transcendent score, Joe Hicks’ latest single is a rare and splendid gift.

Top Tracks: B.Knox – Corners

Though ‘Corners’ is only the second single from Canadian singer/songwriter B.Knox, it speaks with the kind of wisdom and maturity you’d expect from a world weary artist who has spend half a lifetime on the road. He offers his own take on the sensation of life passing by like sand slipping through your fingers. A gritty rumination on the unrelenting passage of time; on all the missed opportunities it leaves buried in the bottom of the hourglass. Reflecting on all the turns not taken when marching onward down a road that seemingly leads nowhere. Though it deals with heavy subject matter, ‘Corners’ merely dabbles in darkness and never fully succumbs to it. There’s an underlying hope shining through the cracks, at its most luminous in the track’s instrumental centrepiece with its old world piano and defiant guitar squalls. A hope that the listener will heed the warning, seize the day, and perhaps chart a course down a road without regrets.

Top Tracks: North America – My Baby’s No One’s Girl

Love can be the source of both the greatest joy and the greatest pain a person can feel. And sometimes, when looking back after a relationship has fallen apart, it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins. ‘My Baby’s No One’s Girl’ explores that grey area in between. The new single from East London quintet North America looks back on the intimate moments from a past relationship, and describes how dwelling on them can come with a feeling of fondness and warmth or with a bitter sting. Equal parts introspective and incendiary, the soft summery swell gradually builds toward a soaring and cathartic guitar solo in one of the best climaxes to a song I’ve heard all year. This standout single warns how one of the greatest tragedies in life is letting love slip through your fingers. But coming in just behind on that list is how much of a tragedy it would be to let a song like this pass you by unheard.

Top Tracks: Toria Wooff – Collision Course

When done right, music can offer you a kind of escapism that is unlike anything else. Perhaps more than any other medium it allows you to simply close your eyes and feel transported to a detailed vignette conjured up by the artist. Singer/songwriter Toria Wooff is wonderfully adept at taking her listeners on just such a journey. The dark cinematic Americana of ‘Collision Course’, taken from her latest EP Badlands, immediately incites an image of the wild west. Of sweeping desert vistas, of dusty canyons scarring the landscape, of an endless horizon where jagged ochre mountains claw at an azure sky. The mere act of pressing play feels as though Toria has rocked up on a rickety horse-drawn wagon to lead you down a well-worn trail on an adventure of her own design. ‘Collision Course’ is a whole other world just waiting for your next visit, provided you ever wish to leave it in the first place.

Top Tracks: The Actual Goners – Temptation

Canadian duo The Actual Goners have hit it out of the park with this new single. To quote their countrymen “I can learn to resist anything but temptation”, and this earnest offering of heartland rock is damn near irresistible right from the start. With the kind of simple yet striking riffs, bright infectious melodies and ever present effervescent charm that will delight fans of Tom Petty. Depicting the aftermath of a night on the town, and all the ill-made decisions while inebriated that come with it, I’ve never heard anyone make the hell of a hangover sound so sweet. The chorus’ tale of “pebbles on the window in the middle of the night” gives and endearingly romanticised view of how, with a little extra push, we find the strength to speak our hearts and forget the consequences. ‘Temptation’ is every bit of intoxicating as the night it depicts, but rather than leave you reeling you’ll be coming straight back for more.

Top Tracks: Tiny Castle – Composure

Brisbane’s Tiny Castle are back with a brilliant new single. From the frenetic retro rocker ‘World’, this new release leads you in a different (but no less stunning) direction. ‘Composure’ is a gorgeous anthemic ballad that once again makes superb use of vintage 80s synths, but this time also drawing from the new romantics and classic indie to create a tender-hearted atmosphere. The way the ballad builds towards a cathartic guitar solo at its conclusion reminds me of Journey’s ‘Who’s Crying Now’, albeit with a more loving vibe. Lyrically ‘Composure’ lives up to its name, as the track is concerned with taking a step back to be able to look at hardships with the necessary perspective to endure them. Musically however it feels more like a slow-dance at the end of the world, offering a feeling that the storm that rages around you can do its worst so long as you can look into the eyes of someone that loves you. It offers the refrain of “I don’t ever wanna drag you through hell”, but the flipside of love is the willingness to walk through hell regardless for the chance to lend a helping hand.

Top Tracks: Natalie Shay – People Like Me

Eighties revivalism has seemingly skyrocketed in recent years. There’s just something about that style that keeps artists coming back for inspiration, and keeps audiences coming back to bask in its charm. Indie pop in particular seems to have a penchant for embracing all things retro, but I can think of few examples that do it quite so well as ‘People Like Me’. With its vibrant synths, energetic rhythm, infectious hooks, and one of the most quirky guitar solos I’ve heard in a while, it’s an endearing track that wins you over right from the first listen. The most uplifting and engaging single yet from Belwood favourite Natalie Shay, it feels like it has been plucked directly from the soundtrack of a John Hughes film. Dealing with the realities of life as an artist, rather than the rose-tinted view we see on social media, it’s easy to imagine it playing over a playful montage of someone trying to find their way in the world. Though it doesn’t shy away from the realities of life, the unrelentingly joyful tone of the song gives you all the positive energy you could ask for to persevere.