Top Tracks: Jonathan Hultén – The Mountain

Some songs resonate with you on a personal level. Perhaps the lyrics find just the right words to say what you’re thinking, or the beat almost seems to fall in time with your heart. There’s just something about it that you can feel in every fibre of your being. Songs like ‘The Mountain’ take that idea a step further however, they feel like they resonate with the world itself. Like you could close you eyes and listen to the hum of nature around you, the wind, the trees, the ground beneath your feet, all in tune with the song. The simple dark folk arrangement, reminiscent in places of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, the hair-raising choral harmonies, and the fantastic video that flows like a living tapestry, all make it feel like there’s something ancient and mystical at work. Taken from his debut solo album Chants From Another Place out 13th of March, this new track from Swedish songwriter Jonathan Hultén is something to behold. There’s magic in ‘The Mountain’, as though its melody has echoed down the generations or its words lie engraved in some long forgotten ruins.

Top Tracks: Woods End – Waves

This Swedish band never fails to impress with their superb ability to craft a compelling atmosphere and conjure up evocative imagery. Their dark gothic folk styling particularly excels at creating a mood akin to some isolated wintery cabin, the kind where you gather round the crackling fire and tell tales of great adventures, of heroes and monsters, stories passed down through the generations. Their new single ‘Waves’ changes up this formula however, offering a more energised and progressive spin on their sound. Rather that a story shared on a quiet winter’s night, ‘Waves’ feels far more like the adventure itself. The riffs like the icy grip of the wind tearing at your skin, the brilliant percussion crashing like the waves upon the shore. This song feels like an epic tale in the making, the soundtrack of a titanic battle or the start of a grand voyage across a raging sea.

Top Tracks: Flo – Between The Lines

A new year and a new decade now lay at our feet. While it’s been fun to look back on the highlights and successes of 2019, and the growth and progress made across the 2010s, it can be a daunting prospect to now acknowledge the vast unknown future that lies before us. Endings and new beginnings can be difficult, especially for us creatures of habit, and it can be hard to move forward without seeing where the road ahead leads. Thankfully Belwood favourite Flo has the perfect song to reassure and inspire as we head into 2020, offering up another simply spellbinding performance. With its calls of “there’s always something better on the other side”, ‘Between The Lines’ feels like the comforting hand on your shoulder that lifts the weight of the world, or the words of encouragement that we long to hear but are too scared or proud to ask for. The dreamy arrangement, the reassuring and hopeful message, and Flo’s ever gorgeous vocals are the perfect guiding light to lead us into the year ahead.

Top Tracks: LUVRS – Lady

This is the time of year when everyone is winding down for the holidays. This is especially true when it comes to the music industry. Most folks have already shared their highlights of the year, and so releasing new music in December is a bit of a kiss of death unless you pull out all the stops and deliver something to rouse people from their advent autopilot. ‘Lady’ is just the track to not only make you sit up and pay attention, but also dispel your winter blues with its irresistible feel-good energy. With a fiercely funky groove, stacks of electronic flourishes, more than enough psychedelic splashes of wah pedal to constitute a rigorous ankle workout, and one of the best guitar solos of the year, Brooklyn duo LUVRS have really thrown everything they’ve got at their debut single. A real gem to end 2019 on a high.

Top Tracks: Lindsay Kay – Clean & Fair

I often find myself turning away from new music for being too simple. Songs that could do so much more; add some more instruments into the equation, add a bit more variation into the arrangement, and just generally make a more engaging listening experience by being more ambitious. That said, when simple songs work, they really work. They’re the kind of songs that take your breath away and make the world stand still. Songs like ‘Clean & Fair’, composed solely of elegant piano and crystalline vocals, fall upon your ears like whispered words of comfort from someone you hold dear. This latest graceful single from Lindsay Kay is a shining example of “less is more”. The accompanying video only further adds to the feeling of serenity and reflection, not only in the gorgeous natural splendour it touches upon, but also in how in finds beauty in the mundane and everyday. Songs like this seem too pure and rare for this world, which is all the more reason to cherish them.

Top Tracks: Louderman – The Western Shore

For many of us a fresh start means forgetting. It means sweeping the past under the rug, clearing it from your mind, and turning your focus instead to the path ahead. Sometimes this works, but often the past still finds its way out of the shadows. The more difficult, but far more rewarding course of action would be to face it. What are mistakes for if not for us to learn from and become better people. What is suffering for if not so that we better appreciate the joy in life. With his debut single ‘The Western Shore’, Canadian born artist Louderman takes a moment to accept his failings and scars before looking to the future. The gorgeous strings carry the sorrow of facing up to the darkest parts of ourselves, but also the undercurrent of hope that tells of something brighter waiting on the other side. His poignant lyricism holds a world-weary wisdom yearning to be passed on. All said its the kind of song to quell even the fiercest of tempests that rage within.

Top Tracks: Proper Youth – Off My Mind

A great writer once said that we fall in love much the same way as we fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. It’s a sensation that feels all too familiar when listening to the debut single from dreamy Americana outfit Proper Youth. The wistful opening reminiscent of Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ is the first spark that leads you to believe you’ve found something special. The bright harmonies and the warm embrace of synths and steel guitar feel so welcoming and familiar, like meeting someone new who you can talk to like you’ve known them your whole life. When the sax solo drops you’ve hit the point of no return, that rush of dopamine akin to looking into someone’s eyes and seeing everything you could wish for, and by the time the chorus kicks in again you find you’ve fallen deep without even realising it. Though ‘Off My Mind’ deals with trying to shake off those feelings and deny what the heart truly feels, I have no reservations about declaring my love for this song. I haven’t been this impressed by a debut single in a long time, and it leaves me hopeful for whatever 2020 has in store.

Top Tracks: Jenny Kern – Satellite

One of the marks of a great artist is versatility. That needn’t mean being well versed in vastly different styles, it can also mean being able to express certain emotions or conjure up different imagery. The new song from Canadian born singer/songwriter Jenny Kern shows her taking an assured step towards expanding her sound in this way. While tracks from her debut EP were grounded more in folk, with warm and simple arrangements that used empty space to their advantage, new offering ‘Satellite’ takes a turn towards indie pop territory. The dreamy synths, animated electronic beats and overall more eclectic arrangement found here feels like a whole other world. It feels like an oasis of quiet self reflection in the middle of a crazy hectic existence. While her earlier singles were like a still night in a country cottage before a crackling fire, this latest effort feels more like walking through the city searching for answers as the streetlights shimmer on the rain-drenched streets.

Top Tracks: The Bergamot – Young Again

You never appreciate what you have until it is gone. When you’re young there’s nothing you long for more than being older. To have new doors open to you, to travel far and wide and see everything there is to see, to have the chance to achieve great things and make the world a better place. When we get there however, the first thing we wish for is to turn back the clock to a simpler time. It’s not that all those things aren’t possible, it’s just that our spirit gets slowly eroded along the way, and optimism falls away in the face of a harsh reality. We stop seeing the world through the same youthful lens of wonder and ambition. While ‘Young Again’, the new single from husband and wife duo The Bergamot, mourns the loss of that youthful mindset as we enter a bleaker world than anticipated, it also serves as a hopeful warning. A message that if a few of us can just cling on to those ideas of youth, the hope, the determination, the love and optimism, then maybe we can build a world that’s less inclined to break us down. Make an adulthood worth growing up for.

Top Tracks: Ren – Willow

Many objects have what is called a resonant frequency. When they’re submitted to vibrations, such as sound waves, that match their unique frequency, they are amplified to sometimes destructive levels. It’s how opera singers can shatter wine glasses with just their voices; in a sense they sing in tune with the very essence of the glass so that it tears itself apart. I have a theory however that under the right circumstances, sound can do just the opposite. Sometimes a song like ‘Willow’ comes along and moves through you like it knows you better than you know yourself. It resonates with something deep within you, but rather than shake you apart and splinter your spirit, it pulls together the parts that were once broken and brings comfort and reassurance. The resplendent strings, gorgeous acoustic guitar and Ren’s soothing vocals make ‘Willow’ the kind of song that you don’t merely listen to, but rather you feel each note in every fibre of your being.