Top Tracks: Drew Angus – Mr. Gemini

This track makes me want to believe in astrology… now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d begin a review with, but bear with me! To be more specific, as a Gemini child myself I wish I was half the man depicted in this rollicking rocker from slick singer-songwriter Drew Angus. ‘Mr. Gemini’ takes all the long held stereotypes about those born under the sign – namely being outgoing and impulsive, wild and unpredictable, as fickle and as forceful as the weather – and dials them up to 11. We’re left with a vivid picture of a freewheeling whirlwind of a man, barrelling down the highway in search of the next big adventure. That same zeal burns brightly in every aspect of this old school rock’n’roller. As well as name-dropping The Boss it has all the same heart as an uptempo E Street offering, the soaring guitar work reminds me a little of The Only Ones’ ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’, the superb vocals strike the perfect balance between polished and free-spirited, and its unrelenting upbeat energy is damn near irresistible. I’m no oracle, but all the horoscopes are telling me that this is an early contender for being one of the best songs of 2020.

Top Tracks: Megan Dixon Hood – Cloudwalker

The world would be a very different place without dreamers, yet they remain forever misunderstood. We all too often see daydreaming and having your head in the clouds depicted as some kind of character flaw rather than as a kind of inner strength and creativity to be admired. With ‘Cloudwalker’ Belwood favourite Megan Dixon Hood shines a light on the real power that dreamers possess. How they can break the Earthly bonds that hold them back and escape into a world of imagination. One where the expectations of others become meaningless and you can be whoever you want to be, a place with no rules or limits, and experience a sense of freedom unlike any other. In seeing the world through that lens people can weather the fiercest storms, see all the forgotten beauty and wonder in the everyday, and think outside the box and look at problems from a new angle. With Megan’s entrancing vocals, some melodic nods to Kate Bush, and an uplifting whirlwind of boundless electropop energy – this one goes out to the dreamers. Here’s a song to make you feel like cartwheeling over endless jungle canopies or dancing across oceans on the crest of a wave.

Top Tracks: Aidan Martin – Hurting You

Sometimes a song takes a while to really grow on you. Perhaps you need to be in the right mood to hear it for the lyrics to really connect with you, or maybe the melodies take time to worm their way into your heart. Sometimes I end up listening to a song on repeat for hours on end before writing about it until every rise and fall feels homely and familiar. Conversely some songs grab you right from the first listen, and even just the first few seconds can be enough to make you stop what you’re doing, sit up, and pay attention. ‘Hurting You’ falls into the latter category. With just a handful of sparse yet striking piano notes and a couple of lines of arresting vocals akin to a mix of Sam Smith and Rag’N’Bone Man, this latest track from Aidan Martin soon grabs ahold of you. Its grasp only gets tighter as the song builds and blooms, so that by the time you reach its grand choral climax it has already earned a place in your heart, as well as your playlist. It may not be a song that needs several listens, but you’ll find yourself hitting repeat all the same.

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.