It’s all too easy to feel lost in this day and age, to feel caught in a bleak existence with no visible way forward. Between a dying planet, growing divisions in all corners of society, and the hateful and corrupt holding all the power, there is a lot to be angry about in 2019. As tempting as it may be, the new single from Jordan Mackampa doesn’t succumb to rage, instead advocating the Marvin Gaye school of thought that “war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate”. Venting your ire at a broken system only gets you so far, real progress can only come from having a vision of a better world to work towards. With the comforting embrace of his soulful vocals, Jordan sets out his vision for a bright new dawn, and asks the question “what am I to do now?”. Not as the query of someone lost and aimless, but as someone determined to make a change for the better, one act of love and kindness at a time. ‘What Am I’ is the kind of song that restores your faith in humanity and makes you believe for a while that one person can actually make a difference.
Great songs are born twice; first when the artist puts the story they wish to tell and the feelings they wish to express to music, and the second time when the song eventually gets released into the world. That is when a song takes on new life in people’s minds. They attach their own feelings to it, form their own stories, make the song their own. Be it the kind of song suited to staring out the window on a rainy day contemplating life, or for striding down the street with head held high feeling like the world can’t touch you, great songs spark the imagination of all who hear them. Wreathed in menace and mystery, ‘Pickaxe’ is the kind of song that could take on a million and one different meanings. For me the ominous atmosphere, equally menacing and melancholy, conjures up images of some grizzled old gunslinger in the wild west; feared by all and sundry, but tired of a life on the run. Where will this glorious piece of gothic Americana lead you? What will you discover?
There is no sensation in the world that compares with the rush of being intimate with the one you love. Of holding them close and being so in love and connected that you are like one spirit. So interwoven in mind and body that you lose your grasp of where they end and you begin, and beyond that connection all else just falls away forgotten. A serene surrender in the face of a force of nature that can just blot out the whole world. It’s the greatest escape a person can experience, and one that indie pop singer/songwriter Alice Ella captures perfectly on her new single ‘Somewhere Else’. It’s a sensation that is equal parts peaceful and overwhelming, and it inhabits the very essence of this track. With crystalline vocals and nuanced electronics perfect for fans of London Grammar, she manages to find the words to describe the feeling better than just about any other songwriter I’ve heard.
You often hear complaints about songs sounding the same, about acts following trends instead of playing around with new sounds. One complaint that you don’t hear nearly as often, but which is every bit as relevant and pressing, is how the same rule applies to lyrics. There are so many bands out there addressing the same old subjects in much the same way as many others before them. The upside however is that it makes songs like ‘Slow TV’, that catch you off-guard with their outside the box thinking, all the more refreshing. This latest single from Glaswegian quintet Wojtek The Bear takes a creative view of how people can go from being your entire world to being complete strangers. It posits how someone you were once close to could die suddenly and you’d be none the wiser. The band then takes this curious train of thought and injects it with a heaping helping of wry wit and adorns it in light-hearted melodies. With an endearingly macabre video to boot, ‘Slow TV’ is one of the most unique and interesting tracks I’ve heard in 2019.
It’s hard to find meaning in routine. It’s hard to feel a sense of purpose when you keep experiencing the same patterns in life, no matter how hard you try to break away and do things differently. Humans are creatures of habit, we live our lives according to cycles and habits, often without even realising it. ‘Into The Dark’ details a desire to break free from the system, but ultimately being too caught up in it to see a way out. However I’d be thankful to be stuck in such a loop if it meant repeat listens of this track. Amsterdam based indie pop artist Micha de Jonge, under his moniker Kita Menari, offers shimmering synths, an infectious groove and a chorus so aglow with glorious melodies that it could make even the most mundane of days feel extraordinary. This first single from forthcoming EP Dreaming All The Time is a song which, contrary to its message, you will find yourself coming back to like clockwork.
We all need somewhere safe to retreat to when the world is getting us down. A sanctuary to call our own when life gets hard. Whether it’s somewhere physical, curled up under the covers with a hot chocolate and your favourite film, or a haven within your own mind to escape to, like a cherished memory to bring you solace and comfort. The debut single from promising singer/songwriter Liv Harris doesn’t just describe such an escape, but also provides one for the listener. ‘Hideaway’ starts with little more than Liv’s airy vocals and a bright and elegant piano, but soon builds into something far more anthemic and uplifting with its nuanced and atmospheric electronica. What begins as merely light shining through the cracks soon grows into a dazzling beacon to banish the darkness that clouds your mind. It’s the kind of song where you don’t know whether you want to broadcast it to the whole world or keep it all for yourself as your own little secret escape.
We all have a touch of wanderlust in our youth. A thirst for adventure, a yearning for a change of scenery, a longing to see more of the world than just the same familiar patch we see every day. It’s easy to see the appeal, but the reality of seeking new endeavours often isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Swedish singer/songwriter Simon Alexander leads you down just such an uncertain path on his new single ‘Move Steady’, taken from his forthcoming EP In The Rust. Channeling a bit of Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind, this fine piece of folk pop details the toll that comes with leaving your life behind. Not only are you diving headfirst into a strange new world, you also leave behind a big part of what made you who you are. Even with someone by your side to share the experience it can be a challenging road to follow. There are plenty of songs out there that revel in the allure in the open road; it’s refreshing to hear an artist be so open and honest about the doubts and struggles that come with it.
There are songs out there to express every conceivable emotion. Songs about a new love that makes you feel like you could fly, songs venting ire at a broken system that make you want to take to the streets, songs about feeling broken and alone for when you just want to curl up in bed and escape reality. Whatever emotion that makes you want to cry out to the world, there’s a song to cry out with you. But what about the times when a cathartic release is beyond reach? The times when you have to hold back the fire inside and put on a brave face, when you have to force a smile to hide the tempest in your mind threatening to tear you apart. That’s where singer/songwriter Ryan McMullan comes in with his new single ‘Rebellion’, taken from his forthcoming debut album due next year. This poignant dose of pop not only deals with all the pent-up frustration, but does so with a mastery of infectious hooks and earworm melodies to rival the likes of Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. It’s a brilliant release from a real breakout star in the making.
“Journey to the coast in your mind, down by the waves“. These days the kind of escapism offered by ‘Swim’ is needed more and more. When the world is at its most bleak and absurd, you can spend a few minutes walking in Joe Hicks’ shoes: along a quiet coastline bathed in the golden light of morning, hand in hand with the one you love. They say the best writers explore all the senses. Not just the sights and sounds, but the sensations against your skin and the emotions bubbling away beneath it. Joe does an exemplary job of capturing the dizzying rush of thoughts and feelings in such a scene. Are those goosebumps from the clawing cold water or from the touch of her skin against yours. Is that rising warm glow as you walk upon the shore down to the first rays of the summer sun or the sight of her smile. Are you feeling weightless because of the rise and fall of the waves, or because love has given you wings. The perfect marriage of gold standard lyricism and transcendent score, Joe Hicks’ latest single is a rare and splendid gift.
Though ‘Corners’ is only the second single from Canadian singer/songwriter B.Knox, it speaks with the kind of wisdom and maturity you’d expect from a world weary artist who has spend half a lifetime on the road. He offers his own take on the sensation of life passing by like sand slipping through your fingers. A gritty rumination on the unrelenting passage of time; on all the missed opportunities it leaves buried in the bottom of the hourglass. Reflecting on all the turns not taken when marching onward down a road that seemingly leads nowhere. Though it deals with heavy subject matter, ‘Corners’ merely dabbles in darkness and never fully succumbs to it. There’s an underlying hope shining through the cracks, at its most luminous in the track’s instrumental centrepiece with its old world piano and defiant guitar squalls. A hope that the listener will heed the warning, seize the day, and perhaps chart a course down a road without regrets.