Top Tracks: Jesse Michael – Made For This

It’s hard to chase a creative dream (music especially) even at the best of times. In choosing to carve a path fraught with uncertainty and doubt, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle for every small piece of progress all on your own. All the while being told by people you know that you’re simply chasing a pipe dream. Moving into the new year, taking a moment to reflect on all the added challenge and hardship brought on by the mess that was 2020, I imagine there are plenty of creatives feeling hopeless and lost right now. This is a song for them. A song for anyone who has decided to pursue their passion and is currently facing a crisis of faith. With ‘Made For This’ singer/songwriter Jesse Michael offers a comforting reminder why people choose the road less travelled in the first place. When you truly love something, when it brings you a joy unlike anything else and forms an integral part of who you are, then it’s a dream worth fighting for with every last breath. It’s a message that I will gladly echo to any doubting artist, Jesse himself included; keep going.

Top Tracks: George Boomsma – Chinatown

Some music just instantly evokes a certain season. There’s something about the seminal folk style of Nick Drake for instance that to my mind feels deeply rooted in autumn. It just naturally ends up conjuring images of golden leaves caught in the breeze, of watching the rain tumble down your window pane, and of a bonfire’s embers rising into the night sky. With ‘Chinatown’, the title track of his latest EP, singer/songwriter George Boomsma brings a shift in seasons to his Nick Drake inspired sound. All the familiar hallmarks are there – the wistful wandering acoustic guitar, the soft spoken vocals, the elegant string arrangements and the raw and rustic production style – but George’s own romantic lyricism adds a kind of warmth to the mix. Somehow ‘Chinatown’ instead conjures images of an idyllic summer; of picnics in the park, walking hand-in-hand along the riverbank, and of a love growing and blossoming like a field of wildflowers. With a grim and uncertain winter ahead of us, here is a track whose comforting folk style is perfect for getting cosy with, but which also offers a promise of brighter days ahead.

Top Tracks: Brian Elliot – Better Than Dead

They say that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but I’ve always had my doubts. It can be very hard to subscribe to that way of thinking when you find yourself consumed by heartbreak. You can’t miss what you’ve never known. If you never met that person, never gave them your heart unreservedly, then you would live in ignorant bliss without knowing just how happy they could make you feel. To my mind experiencing a joy like no other, only to lose that feeling and have your heart torn asunder, seems like a far more torturous prospect. Lyrically, ‘Better Than Dead’ is about being haunted by the echoes of the past. Struggling to drown out the deafening silence that their absence has left. Seeing reminders of better times and feeling the sting of knowing that it’s now all just a fading memory. Musically however, this new track from indie maestro Brian Elliot magnificently maintains a calm and cool exterior, like wearing a smile to hide the hurt. With sweeping string arrangements, a wonderfully retro Super 8 music video, and crooning vocals reminiscent of Alex Turner, this cinematic new single from his forthcoming debut Familiar Walk To Nowhere feels effortlessly elegant and thoroughly engrossing.

Top Tracks: T. Evann – Clearer

Occasionally the right song will fall into your life just when you need it most, to say exactly what you need to hear. This year has seen the blog busier than ever, and at times I’ve been drowning under the weight of submissions and the pressure to cover as many as possible. Whenever writer’s block hits and throws a spanner in the works, putting me even further behind, it’s hard not to see it as a failure, as me letting people down. ‘Clearer’, the new track from London based producer and songwriter T. Evann, is just the reminder I needed that those stagnant phases are all part of the process. You wouldn’t push any other part of your body to be firing on all cylinders without time to rest and recuperate, so we owe it to ourselves to give the creative side of our brains a break every now and then. Rather than banging your head against the wall, take a step back and trust that there’s a fresh burst of inspiration waiting just ahead. Taken from his upcoming EP Headblush, out 8th December, ‘Clearer’ carries a timeless psychedelic sound. Its warm summery tones offering a welcoming embrace, the soothing laidback vibes breaking down the stress brick by brick, while the swirling vibrant soundscapes are just what you need to untether your imagination.

Top Tracks: Sophie Morgan – Unwinnable War

The best things in life are worth fighting for, even if it occasionally means clashing with those we care about. Even with those we hold closest to our hearts, the ones we love and our dearest friends and family, you’re likely to fall out every once in a while. The mark of a strong relationship isn’t making out that everything is perfect, but through confronting problems and ultimately emerging stronger on the other side. That said, sometimes we can find ourselves chasing an “other side” that simply isn’t there. You can end up fighting tooth and nail with someone to keep them in your life, only to be blinded to the fact that the fight is all you know. ‘Unwinnable War’ is the realisation that they’re not worth the energy. Belwood favourite Sophie Morgan has really outdone herself with this latest single. Her vocals carry the same distinctive warmth and elegance as ever, and yet somehow every sublime lyric seems to roll off her tongue with more clarity and meaning than ever before. The soft and sparse arrangement swaying back and forth, punctuated with a brief mournful howl of guitar. The bittersweet melodies that tug at your heartstrings and linger in your thoughts. There’s no fight when it comes to loving this song, it welcomes you with open arms. This stunning single is a poignant reminder that sometimes the bravest course you can take isn’t to keep fighting, but to admit that it’s time to walk away.

Top Tracks: Old Sea Brigade – How It Works

The music industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; beneath all the glitz and glamour there are some toxic folk around. More specifically, there have always been the petty few who get their kicks through gatekeeping. Eager to lord whatever meagre power they posses over new acts and dangle the promise of success over them. Things are getting better, but as in all things change for the better makes slow progress, and there are still those who cling to the old ways and insist “that’s just how it works”. Drawing from his own experiences within the industry, and having been on the receiving end of those exact same words, Nashville based singer/songwriter Ben Cramer reflects on the struggle for change with the latest single under his Old Sea Brigade moniker. Being told ‘How It Works’ doesn’t just apply to music though, it’s something we hear about all the many broken parts of society that hold people back. The hazy Americana arrangement and enthralling earworm melodies make this the ideal song to sit back and reflect on the slow march of progress around you. ‘How It Works’ is a song of real substance, and the accompanying video, of a wonderfully cinematic Western shootout in the Mojave Desert, compliments it with an extra dash of style to boot.

Top Tracks: Lawson Hull – College Town

I’m fairly sure there’s a longing to escape ingrained within all of us. There comes a time in your youth where there’s nothing you desire more than to get away from the dead end town you grew up in and make your own way in the world. Meet new people, see the city lights, live out your dreams. The dismay of feeling trapped is one thing, but it’s nothing compared to the feeling of breaking free, spreading your wings at last, only to then come crashing back down to the same old dead end town. With ‘College Town’, Australian singer/songwriter Lawson Hull perfectly captures the sense of quiet defeat that comes with being stuck in a familiar cage. Taken from his debut EP Dreaming is Easy, the sadness and regret of his latest single really hits home with lines like “I shouldn’t be out here in the prime of my life”. Underneath it all however, there’s a warmth and familiarity to ‘College Town’ that feels like coming home. The way the track interweaves the sadness, the yearning for something greater, with the warm glow of nostalgia and an unspoken sense of acceptance, serves as a poignant reminder that sometimes it’s better the devil you know.

Top Tracks: Megan Nash – Artifact

We have a remarkable ability to attach great meaning to otherwise unremarkable things. What would be a wholly insignificant trinket to one person could be a priceless heirloom to another. Even little scraps of paper could have years of memories attached to them. It’s quite magical in a way. How a picture or note that would be meaningless to most can become a portal to another time in the right hands; allowing a torrent of memories, and the emotions attached to them, to come flooding back. Canadian artist Megan Nash offers an exquisite exploration of this phenomenon with her new single ‘Artifact’. The track begins adrift in a dreamy wistful atmosphere, reminiscing on a past relationship and recalling how it felt to be in love. This alone would make ‘Artifact’ a sublime exercise in songwriting, but Megan takes things a step further. As growing tension and menace builds in the arrangement, the track turns to reflect on how things turned sour and fell apart, swimming with both the passion of the past and the pain of the present. It delves into how we can take the moments frozen in time contained with objects and look upon them with fresh perspectives once we’re a little older and wiser.

Top Tracks: Heavyman – Loose Lips

Picture if you will the world of music as a busy bar scene. There are many songs which are like the friendly bar staff who greet everyone with a smile. Some songs are like the quiet wallflower in the corner; easily overlooked at first, but after spending a bit of time with them they can become a friend for life. And some are more like grizzled strangers with an unapproachable air who are very much an acquired taste. Then you have tracks like ‘Loose Lips’ – our leather-jacketed, effortlessly cool leading man that commands everyone’s attention as soon as they walk in the door. This new single from London based alt rock outfit Heavyman is simply dripping with charisma. Between the heavy stomp of drums, the suave snaking bass lines, and the slick addictive riffs, it ticks all the right boxes with an assured flourish. It’s the textbook example of a “walk down the street feeling like a badass” kind of song. Beneath the bravado however there’s also some real depth to this debonair rocker. With lyrics dealing with the current torrent of fake news, and the kind of people who lap it up and let truth fall by the wayside, ‘Loose Lips’ has plenty of substance to go with its abundance of style.

Top Tracks: Rebekah Fitch – Dust

Much of what I do revolves around finding the right words, but sometimes my job is made impossible by those words simply not existing. To my knowledge there’s no word to describe a perfect unison of music and visuals. No handy expression to convey just how a great music video can elevate a song, and how a stunning song can in turn add another level of storytelling to the visuals. If such a word existed it would apply perfectly to ‘Dust’, the new single from Irish alt-pop artist Rebekah Fitch. Lyrically it deals with the heartbreak that comes with losing someone you never thought you’d lose. The sorrow that hits like a bolt from the blue when they’re suddenly not around, off living their life without you. The memories of the time you shared together marred by loss, the future that you dreamt of crumbling away before your eyes. If such a message wasn’t already enough to tug at your heartstrings, the track is paired with one of the most arresting and emotionally devastating videos of the year, depicting an elderly couple struggling with separation after many years together. Between the incredibly moving video, earnest lyricism and Rebekah’s stunning soaring vocals, ‘Dust’ is the kind of track that just tears out your heart and still has you pleading for more.