Top Tracks: Will Varley – Statues

If you need a heartwarming track to help you snuggle up on these cold winter nights, then the latest single from singer/songwriter Will Varley is just what the doctor ordered. Taken from his upcoming album Spirit Of Minnie, out 9th February, ‘Statues’ is a laid back slice of Americana boasting a rich musical palette of airy slide guitar, quiet contemplative folk and Will’s gritty vocals. Lyrically it talks about feeling stuck in a particular place and time, longing for change, but should you find yourself stuck with this sublime song on repeat I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s the perfect song to get lost in and forget about life for a while, and there’s sure to be more great tracks just like it on the way in the new year.

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Top Tracks: Winter Mountain – Platinum and Gold

If some celestial visitor with no experience of humanity and it’s art asked for some examples what would you give them? If you had sum up what folk, in particular that indefinable Americana sound, was all about in one song, you’d present a damn good case with the new single from Winter Mountain. It has all the musical elements you’d expect; resplendent guitar tones, a warm welcoming atmosphere, and vocals that find the perfect mid-point between gritty and uplifting. More than that however, the music reflects part of the human spirit. The video is a perfect fit with its crashing waves and roaring campfire, as if you just close your eyes you naturally imagine just such a scene. Music says a lot about an artist, but sometimes it’s nice to find a song that lets you sit back and see the bigger picture, and think of the art that’s in all of us.

Top Tracks: Gus Harrower – Cell Dilution

The new single from Scottish singer/songwriter Gus Harrower really doesn’t mess around. With ‘Cell Dilution’, taken from his upcoming EP Where We Were, Gus throws everything he’s got at you. The piano led intro weaves through some suave little swing sections into impassioned heartfelt balladry. It’s not long however until the track kicks it up a notch, throwing stylish synths and expressive drums into the mix, punctuated with gritty guitar bursts. This track is straining at the seams, crammed full of varied and engaging sounds, of which I’d pick out the jazzy piano work as the pièce de résistance. There are few acts this year that can pack in so much diversity and yet still make it work, which really reflects Gus’ talents as a songwriter and the enormous potential he carries.

Top Tracks: Chloe Bodur – Glory

There’s a lot of talk this time of year about the “Sound of 2018” and the “ones to watch” in the coming year. Often these just serve to score points, rather than capture any sense of zeitgeist, but I truly feel this debut single represents something significant. With ‘Glory’ young Chloe Bodur brings together subtle little experimental flourishes reminiscent of Frank Ocean and Childish Gambino, but still maintains the smooth and intoxicating appeal of classic soul. It pushes the boundaries enough to stand out from the crowd but is inviting enough to make you want to play it on repeat all day. Mark my words, Chloe is ahead of the curve with this one, and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of other artists unwittingly trying to recreate this sound in 2018. Whether any will beat ‘Glory’ though is another matter.

Top Tracks: Hamish Anderson – U

In a way the birdsong that opens this video couldn’t be any more fitting. This soulful slice of blues rock from Australian artist Hamish Anderson feels so natural. The warm and inviting vibes are just so inherently likeable that it may well be hardwired into your DNA, and the track flows so effortlessly from him as though it were as natural as breathing. The simply titled ‘U’, taken from his debut album Trouble, offers rich vintage guitar tones, smooth and expressive vocals, and the familiar organ hum that has graced many a classic record over the years. The whole track is like the musical equivalent of honey; golden, luscious and bringing with it a kind of rustic charm. This song offers simple pleasures and it delivers and delights by every measure.

Top Tracks: Megan Dixon Hood – Alias Grace

One of the most common and important human desires is a need to be understood, and that is in essence what this new track from Cheshire born singer/songwriter Megan Dixon Hood is all about. ‘Alias Grace’, based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, tells the tale of the eponymous Grace. Plagued by vicious rumours of a crime she didn’t commit, and lamenting how people wrongly see her as a monster rather than her true self. As well as molding the story’s world and characters into a wonderfully crafted narrative, musically it also offers a gorgeous refined style recalling everyone from Joni Mitchell to Fleetwood Mac. With expressive bass tones, elegant piano, and Megan’s angelic vocals, this song portrays in its music Grace’s true self; tender and dignified, yet equally proud and unyielding.

Top Tracks: Keeva – Whisky

Sometimes it’s the simplest music that says the most, and has the greatest power to move us. The debut single from this half Jordanian, half Irish singer/songwriter thrives on nothing more than the bare essentials. Open and vulnerable, with just her voice and the piano, ‘Whisky’ is an intimate and heartfelt break-up track about Keeva’s move to London and all the difficult decisions and changes that came with it. This soulful little number, which features a co-writing credit from Benjamin Francis Leftwich, manages to sum up a vast swirl of difficult emotions in a raw and straightforward message. With a classic vibe to it, this whisky has been aged to perfection, and carries a timeless feel that speaks to something deep within. Rarely do you find a debut single as strong as this.

Top Tracks: Janileigh Cohen – Same Old Road

The new single from this Bolton born singer/songwriter is nothing short of timeless. Recalling such classic artists as Joni Mitchell and Carole King, this heartwarming piano led track welcomes you like an old friend. ‘Same Old Road’ sounds like the kind of song that gets passed down like a family heirloom, a song that means so much to you that you long to share it with those who are most important. Janileigh sings with all the warmth and vibrancy of a fading sunset, offering a loving message of reassurance and imparting a sense that everything will be all right. This ‘Same Old Road’ is one that I would gladly stroll down anytime; no destination in mind, content to simply enjoy the journey.

Top Tracks: Royal Street – Say Hello

It’s a tale as old as popular music itself; hearing a song live changes your entire perception of it. There’s some inexplicable magic at work, and suddenly it’s like hearing it again for the first time. Sometimes it can even happen when you’re not even there, simply by watching a live recording you can open your mind to new possibilities. Royal Street’s new live rendition of ‘Say Hello’, from their debut album Flavors, does just that. With plenty of pop appeal, some refined Americana vibes, and their trademark bass tones, this dark horse of a track has really grown on me. Showing a different side to the band, this charming performance really brings out the best of Royal Street, and is sure to delight their fans as well as lure in plenty of new faces.

Top Tracks: big tide – Thirst For The Limelight

Making a great song needn’t be rocket science, sometimes all you need is that one secret ingredient to bring it to life. That’s just the philosophy that has been followed for big tide’s new single ‘Thirst For The Limelight’. With his signature 12-string guitar, Liverpool born songwriter Ben Thomas, under his moniker big tide, has perfected an attention grabbing jangly tone that proves to be delightfully refreshing and engaging. With hints of The Byrds and R.E.M., and more than a little of The Smiths thrown in for good measure, big tide brings classic indie and subtle psychedelica together in this punchy little number. This track may not be the most diverse or the most technical music in the world, but none of that matters when you can so perfectly nail a sound and a vibe like this.