Top Tracks: Jonny Carroll – Duffle Bag

What with many of us suddenly finding ourselves with a lot more free time on our hands, now seems like as good a time as ever for a bit of self reflection. A chance to slow down, look inward, and think on who we really are. What led us to this point, how our past has defined who we are now, and what we can do to change the path we find ourselves on. The first step to resolving a problem is to recognise that it is there, and ‘Duffle Bag’ is the story of Jonny Carroll taking that leap. It seems like an age has passed since we first featured Jonny’s music. A lot has changed since then, but his melodies remain every bit as sweet as birdsong and his sublime lyricism is still full of heart. In his most mature and thoughtful work yet, this atmospheric new single takes an objective look at his own destructive coping mechanisms. Breaking down all the bottled-up pain that formed them in the first place and acknowledging the hurt they’ve caused others in the years that followed. I don’t know many people who are mature enough to tackle such self-improvement, and even fewer who are brave enough to share that battle with the world, and talented enough to turn such a struggle into a song so beautiful.

Top Tracks: Zaac Pick – Lighter Side Of Blue

It almost feels silly to be writing about music at a time like this. It seems pretty trivial in the face of all the fear and uncertainty that has gripped the world. I imagine all the artists creating music at the moment feel much the same way, that their work seems frivolous and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. It’s in times like this however that we need art most of all as a light to lead us through our dark days. Much like other art forms music provides an escape, but more than any other it also has an uncanny power to provide comfort. To remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles, and that there’s something better waiting on the other side. ‘Lighter Side Of Blue’, the latest track from Canadian singer/songwriter Zaac Pick, is a timely reminder of the solace that music brings us when we’re at our lowest. With a haunting folk arrangement, soothing vocals and a strangely prescient video that see Zaac drifting through serene empty streets, this track is the perfect companion to keep by your side and help guide you through the darkness.

Top Tracks: Ren Lawton – The World and Me

It’s hard not to fall for a free spirit. The kind of people that live out an existence that you could only dream of. The wanderers who spend their lives drawn to beauty and adventure, and in turn radiate that exact same allure to enrapture everyone they meet. Those people that seem to shirk off all the trappings of modern life, all the societal chains that drag the rest of us down, who we end up clinging to in the hope that they take us with them on their unfettered flight. Often the reason we fall for them is the same reason why we have to let them go. Though we may dream of it, most of us aren’t made for that life, but we’d rather lose a free spirit we love than to see such a rare bird caged. ‘The World and Me’ describes just such a love, however it takes the path less travelled. The one that leads to spreading your wings and taking flight with them rather than losing them. This latest track from Belwood favourite Ren Lawton is one of his most accomplished yet, with its heartwarming melodies, uplifting strings and a comforting caress of harmonica. It’s the kind of track that makes the world feel a brighter place. That despite how we may feel right now there is a fresh adventure waiting over the horizon.

Top Tracks: The Dustbowl Daddies – Shoulda Let You Down

It’s easy to think of folk music as something soft, sparse and gentle and forget just how spirited it can be. How it can ignite a fire in your veins, make you cast all inhibitions aside and make you want to dance and twirl about the room until you’re out of breath. Take ‘Shoulda Let You Down’ for instance; it’s anything but soft and gentle, it’s a rollicking, foot-stomping tour de force. This infectious new number from Canadian folk ensemble The Dustbowl Daddies has something magical about it. Press play, break the seal on this potent little potion, and you’ll find you have the perfect recipe for an instant party. Celebrating a much needed escape from a unhappy relationship that had been dragging you down for far too long, this track has such boundless energy. The frantic mile-a-minute strumming and chaotic sing-along chorus just makes you feel like you can take on the world. It’s a song for feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin after a winter that seemed to last a lifetime and reveling in the thought of brighter days to come.

Top Tracks: Caity Krone – Thank You for the Sunday Paper

At times like this when we’re holed up at home with little more than our own thoughts for company, our minds often wander to people that we’d rather not think about. Whether it is someone who hurt you and left you feeling broken, or someone you loved and lost who left an empty void in their wake, it’s all to easy to dwell on the memories of those who leave a mark on our lives. Sometimes so much so that we begin to lose ourselves in the process. We begin to feel like the shadow of the person we used to be when they were still around, and it can be a struggle just to get through each day as we slowly try to build ourselves back up. The gorgeous piano balladry of singer/songwriter Caity Krone’s latest track shares exactly what it’s like to carry such a burden. This stunning number shares how debilitating it can be when you’re drowning in memories of someone else, but underneath also acknowledges that each little victory is a step along the road to finding yourself again.

Top Tracks: Phosphene – Spiral

Now more than ever we all need an escape. Here we are, all going stir crazy stuck behind four walls while the world outside is scary, uncertain, and eerily quiet. Now seems like the perfect time for the kind of song that whisks you away to better places and happier times. It feels like an age has passed since we last wrote about Portland based dream pop outfit Phosphene, but they have returned when we need them most with a brand new single. Fittingly ‘Spiral’, taken from the band’s forthcoming album Lotus Eaters, is a track all about seeking solace and peace during hard times. If you find yourself searching for the same such respite then then there’s certainly no shortage of it to be found on this latest release. The bright melodies, hazy synths and airy indie riffs make ‘Spiral’ a song to be cherished, the kind that feels like the comforting embrace of the sun breaking through the clouds or the first flowers of spring blooming to bring some colour to a dreary grey world. When everything around you is on a downward spiral, sometimes one song is all it takes to help turn things around and send your spirits spiralling skyward.

Top Tracks: Samantha Lindo – Underside

We all have a part of ourselves that we conceal from the world. Outwardly we portray our best self. We try to show the world that we lead a happy life, that we’re confident and beautiful, that we leap from one success to another. In this image conscious age in which we find ourselves, we push ourselves to maintain this perfect veneer in order to hide what lies underneath. Beneath the facade most people are battling just to keep their head above the water. Whether it’s stressing about everyday struggles, worrying about what the future holds, being haunted by past trauma, feeling scared or alone or unworthy, and trying their best to bottle up that raging storm. ‘Underside’ is a track that reminds us that it’s okay to let the mask slip from time to time. That by letting someone else in to see what we hide away we can share the burden and hold each other up. Bristol based artist Samantha Lindo’s soulful vocals, articulate words of encouragement, and slick yet understated jazz arrangements offer just the kind of loving warmth and reassurance that world needs more of.

Top Tracks: Sophie Morgan – Bar to Bar

A common piece of advice for writers is that you should write what you know. The same applies to songwriters; when you create music that tells the tale of your life, about the experiences that shaped you, it can make a world of difference. There’s a certain electricity in the air when you can tell an artist has poured their heart into a song and has crafted something very human and relatable. That feeling is perfectly encapsulated in Belwood favourite Sophie Morgan’s latest offering ‘Bar to Bar’, which tells her story of starting out in music, writing songs, gigging across town, and falling in and out of love along the way. While most songs about life on the road tend to glamorise playing to massive crowds or a life of excess behind the scenes, it’s so refreshing to hear a humble depiction of a musical journey just beginning and the loves and losses that come with it. Especially when it shares the same wistful poeticism and gorgeous honeyed vocals that left us so enamoured with Sophie’s last release. If this track from her latest EP Marmalade (out 20th March) is anything to go by, then the humble origins shared in ‘Bar to Bar’ were just the first step along the road to great things.

Top Tracks: The Satellite Station – Phantom

Everyone that we meet who we welcome into our lives leaves their mark on us in some way. Some small trace of them lives in us, and we come across little reminders of them as we go about our lives. Perhaps it’s hearing their favourite song, or visiting a place you spent a lot of time together. For those closest to us, the ones we give our heart to, even the most slight of stimuli can bring them to mind, like the faintest of scents drifting by on the breeze or the soft touch of another’s hand against yours. When you lose someone you love, be it through a break-up or them passing away, you begin to feel the marks they left everywhere you turn. The suitably haunting ‘Phantom’, from singer/songwriter Travis Rue under his moniker The Satellite Station, details what it is like to be living in the shadow of someone’s memory. Having so many things that remind you of them that it feels like they never left. Trying to move on when there are reminders all around you, but at the same time not wanting to escape by forgetting them entirely. This sparse and elegant number is one that you can really empathise with, and it will live on in your memory for all the right reasons.

Top Tracks: Limón Limón – Normal Now

A huge part of who we are is determined by what we want other people to think of us. We all wear a mask to blend in with the crowd to some degree; it’s human nature, we’re sociable creatures and we want to belong, to feel like part of the group. To that end we don’t try to be exceptional, we don’t let our unique character shine through as much as we should, instead we end up striving to be average. We keep our heads down and conform, we live our lives guided by society’s standards and try to keep up with the latest trends. This new track from indie duo Limón Limón rejects the notion of normality and acts as a celebration of individuality. The hazy synths, understated groove, and light and airy riffs make ‘Normal Now’, with its vintage 80s vibes, feel like a splash of vibrant colour in an otherwise bland and beige world. It’s a track that we find happiness within ourselves, not from the approval of others.