Top Tracks: Rafaèlla – Woman

The best music, and art in general, comes from the heart. When someone imprints their identity onto their work, their hopes, their fears, their emotions, you can feel that connection. But in order to best share a part of yourself in this way, you must first truly know yourself. Whether that’s by allowing yourself to feel something you’ve kept pent up for a long time, or by embracing all different pieces that make you who you are. All your deepest passions, your biggest influences, your roots, all you stand for and believe in. Prompted by women’s rights stories of recent years, from the harrowing to the inspirational, ‘Woman’ is song about Rafaèlla’s own personal journey of self-acceptance, and a celebration of inner strength. From her understated yet assured vocals, to the traditional Greek instrumentation that honours her Cypriot heritage, Rafaèlla builds a clear picture of who she is as an artist, and as a person, on this new single.

Top Tracks: Francesca Louise – The Sea

They say that all roads lead to Rome. A vast network spanning a continent and beyond, with the Eternal City at its heart. It’s the perfect recipe for a melting pot of lost souls, who have all hit the road hoping to understand themselves and find meaning. It seems that Belwood favourite Francesca Louise is just such a soul. Her latest single ‘The Sea’ is a wistful reflection on her time spent there. The strangers that left their mark on her heart and became something far more, the freedom of walking the winding roads of the seven hills beneath the warm summer sun. The result is a blissful pastoral escape; the feather-light folk guitar, elegant swell of strings, and of course Francesca’s delightfully dreamy vocals, all making this serene single as captivating as it is comforting. All roads lead to Rome, but a road goes both ways, and more often than not what waits at the other end is the sea. People would carry the spirit of the city with them as far as their feet would carry them. Francesca’s stunning new song will stay with you every bit as far, offering a window into a place, a memory, and of freedom and serenity, whenever you may need it.

Top Tracks: S.I.L. – Lonely Nights

Sometimes reaching the end can give you a greater appreciation for even the smallest of steps you took on the journey to get there. When you get your big break and start living the life you’ve dreamt of, you recognise all the minor milestones that you neglected to celebrate as the leaps in progress they truly were. When you’re head over heels in love and look back at all those little moments – the stolen glances, the playful flirting, the brush of their skin against yours – and realise each and every one made you fall just that little bit deeper. ‘Lonely Nights’ is just such a journey. The subdued mellow R&B soundscape, the understated drum work that adds extra layers of intricacy and expression. Those warm soulful vocals, that irresistible groove that subtly snakes its way through the song. It’s only when you reach the pinnacle of this deftly crafted track, when it’s at its most vibrant and alluring and practically dragging you by the collar to the nearest makeshift dancefloor, that you truly appreciate the way that Orlando based duo S.I.L. were able to build it up piece by exquisite piece.

Live Review: The Paper Kites, Manchester Academy 2, 17th Feb 2023

I like to think we all have bands we listen to that are inexplicably hit and miss. They’ll have some songs that you adore with all your heart, as well as songs that you’re honestly pretty indifferent to… but on paper, somehow there’s very little that separates the two. Try as you might, you can never quite put your finger on whatever magical secret ingredient it is that makes certain tracks shine brighter than those around them. They just do; it’s some law of the universe. Australian indie outfit The Paper Kites are a prime example of such a band for me. Some songs barely making a ripple, while others have such a hold over me that they appear in nearly every playlist I make. Their studio albums a little inconsistent, but if you brought the right tracks together as a ‘greatest hits’ I would struggle to ever pull myself away. Keeping my fingers crossed that their live setlist would bring all my favourites together in just such a way, I made my way to catch them in Manchester hoping that elusive magic would be in the air. Continue reading

Top Tracks: Megan Dixon Hood – The Garden

We all find comfort and escapism in other worlds. In the books we read, the films we watch, we cherish stories of such fantastical lands that leave us daydreaming of being whisked away there. I’d like to think however, that the people of those other worlds find themselves dreaming in turn of the Earth we know, of a world so majestic and full of beauty, clinging to tales of lush rainforests and kaleidoscopic coral reefs. Imagine how they’d feel if they knew how we treated the world they dreamt of; how we take its splendour for granted. On ‘The Garden’ Megan Dixon Hood delivers another environmentally conscious anthem in the spirit of past tracks like ‘The Wishing Tree‘. Taken from her forthcoming debut album East of the Sun, Megan’s otherworldly vocals, equal parts earth-shaking and ethereal, make her sound like a wanderer from a fairytale land trying to show us the error of our ways, before we’re left with a wasteland where no birds sing and no rivers run. From its shuddering primal drums to its vibrant and ever-shifting synth melodies, there’s a world to discover here that’s just as diverse and full of fleeting moments of beauty as the one that surrounds us now.

Top Tracks: Cristina Hart – Crash

Things often have to get worse before they get better. Sometimes it takes that final drop to rock bottom for you to finally admit to yourself how bad things have gotten. Being at your lowest brings those unhealthy coping mechanisms into full view, and can be just the push you needed in order to ask for help and stop suffering in silence. ‘Crash’ is about life at its darkest, but it’s also a song about climbing your way back towards the light. In her most raw and vulnerable offering to date, Cristina Hart reflects on treading water against numbing waves of grief and anxiety. That forlorn feeling of having no one to lean on, fearing you’ll disappoint them or become a burden if you let the mask slip. Building upon the darker, edgier pop sound we heard on ‘Never Be Her‘, this latest single is a reminder that admitting there’s a problem is the first step to fixing it. Cristina delivers intimate and visceral lyrics, wrapped up in fiery alt-pop instrumentation and heady infectious hooks, in a cathartic anthem that breaks you down only to lift you up again. A stunning track to start the year with, and one that sets the benchmark for new pop in 2023.

Top Tracks: Beth Crowley – The Ghost Who Is Still Alive

They say that everyone dies twice; first when they shuffle off this mortal coil, and again when their name is spoken aloud for the last time. But imagine the tragic fate that would occur if the order of those endings was reversed. We are social creatures, and so much of who we are lies in the marks left on us by those we interact with, and the marks we leave on them in turn. “Does a life have any meaning, If no one knows your name?”. Nashville based singer/songwriter Beth Crowley tackles this very question with her latest single. ‘The Ghost Who Is Still Alive’ is another shining example of her singular style of literary lyricism. Inspired by the novel The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, detailing the life of a woman cursed to live forever and be forgotten by everyone she meets, this slice of cinematic pop finds the perfect balance between haunting melancholy and impactful gravitas that such a tragic tale deserves. To never know love or friendship, to endure every hardship with no shoulder to cry on, to walk the sands for all time and leave no footprints in your wake. Such a unique and compelling spark of inspiration for a song, and one that we get to hear so beautifully realised.

Top Tracks: Hannah Grace – Silver Lining

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. But when times are tough, when the sky is just a swirling tempest of grey stretching from horizon to horizon, that hopeful spark we so desperately long for can be hard to find. Though we’re often more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, trying to weather the storm and wait patiently for that bright sliver to show isn’t always the best option. This uplifting new song from Belwood favourite Hannah Grace presents a different approach; being the change you want to see in the world, by painting your own silver lining across the sky when there’s none to be found. With a beautifully understated arrangement that gives her golden vocals room to glow, it offers all the comfort and respite found in that moment of calm once the storm has passed. Taken from her forthcoming EP Devoted, out this July, it’s a gorgeous first peek at what this promising new chapter has in store.