Spotlight!: Emilia Tarrant

It’s always been said that your should “write what you know”, but what about when you find yourself in a state of not knowing? What about when things don’t turn out the way you hoped and expected they would, and you find yourself in an unfamiliar place you never expected to be? Or how about when you find yourself carried beyond your control by various ebbs and flows – of fate, of the whims of those who have your heart, of the confusing swirl of thoughts inside your own head – and are left unsure what the next day will bring, what then? Sometimes when you’re lost the best thing to do is to write what you don’t know; give voice to the uncertainty, take what catharsis you can from venting frustration at the fickleness of life, and just hope that you find solid ground further down the line. With her debut EP Honeymoon Phase, singer/songwriter Emilia Tarrant offers a candid window into her own battle with uncertainty and heartache. At a time when we all feel the need maintain a façade of us at our best and pretend to know what we’re doing, we have here an affecting and assured pop record for which you can’t help but lower your guard. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Zach Wood & Hollan

I don’t think I’ll ever stop being enamoured with, and enraptured by, the power that music has to bring us together. It has proven time and again to be a precious golden thread connecting us, especially so in a period that has left us all feeling isolated. A song can provide the same solace or release to countless people thousands of miles apart, it can forever imprint upon your memory a sense of time and place for moments shared, and when everything aligns sometimes one song is all it takes to fall in love. In this instance all it took was one demo finding its way to the right ears to forge a friendship, and ultimately lead to this stunning collaboration. Zach Wood stumbled upon Anna Manotti’s demo for ‘Water’ (under her moniker Hollan), and after several years of listening to each other’s music, the two friends finally met in 2019. New ideas flowing freely, but unable to take their creations on the road, instead they decided to hunker down and record what would become Cowgirland. The rest, as they say, is history, and through such fortunate twists of fate we were gifted with this superb record. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Griff

While I try my best to keep my finger on the pulse, some artists rise to the top so fast that it’s easy to blink and miss them. No sooner did the name Griff appear on my periphery as one to watch, she was stealing the show at the BRIT awards and being held up as their rising star. While I may sadly be a little late to the party, it’s most certainly still a party I want to be part of, as her time in the spotlight is most assuredly deserved. With her debut release One Foot in Front of the Other we find the perfect mission statement of what makes Griff so rightly hailed as the UK’s next big pop act. Entirely written, performed and produced by her alone, so much of her personality is poured into this EP, offering assured performances and carrying a clear idea of who she is and where she’s going for anyone that listens. With her own unique style as a performer, a touching candour to her lyricism, and a knack for crafting memorable hooks, she ticks every box for what a pop act should aspire to be. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Luke Todd

We go through our days being told that our youth is the best time of our lives. Very rarely do we believe it at the time however. We’d whittle away our adolescent years daydreaming of what the future might hold, and it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we begin to appreciate what we had. That stage of important firsts where every emotion burned its brightest. Heartbreak may have been all the keener, but never again will moments of joy feel quite so boundless. That time where all the people most important to us were always close at hand, not knowing you’d eventually drift apart along different paths and at different paces. With his charming debut EP Adolescence, singer/songwriter Luke Todd stands at a lyrical crossroads between the last days of a fading youth and those tentative first steps into adulthood. Taking a nostalgic look back at the carefree days once taken for granted, as well as reflecting on how growing up takes you by surprise and all the ways it fails to meet expectations, this adept songwriter delivers an assured and affecting first record.  Continue reading

Spotlight!: BE GOOD

be goodThere’s something strangely compelling about those few hours where the late afternoon fades into the early evening. In that bewitching liminal space between night and day, we see so much change in such a short space of time, evoking a wide array of different feelings. The warm glow of golden hour that can make even the most mundane and dreary setting feel magical. The way the sunset bathes the sky in colour like an impressionist painting; a vibrant canvas of pinks and oranges that you can’t help but stare up at with a sense of childlike wonder. The eerie blue haze of dusk as those last lingering rays of sunlight cling on as darkness seeps into the sky. Oxford quartet BE GOOD condense the bittersweet beauty inherent in each sunset into their latest EP Everything’s Alright in the Evening. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Cristina Hart

The perfect person doesn’t exist, no matter what the media may say otherwise. We’re all constantly being bombarded with these manufactured little pockets of perfection that set impossibly high standards for ourselves and others, but beneath it all there’s always another side to the story. For every flawless portrait there’s a dishevelled mess stumbling out of bed that morning. For every budding romance there are the scars of rejection and heartbreak. For every golden success story there’s someone picking themselves up after they fell at yet another hurdle. Rather than shy away from the little moments of humanity that we’re all too keen to hide, Belwood favourite Cristina Hart makes sure to put them square in the spotlight. Her long awaited debut EP Sell a Dream plays like a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. An empowering pop powerhouse to remind you that your imperfections are part of who you are, and to embrace them unapologetically. 

On ‘I’m A Mess’ Cristina pokes fun at her own flaws, as well as at our eagerness to pretend that we’ve all got our shit together, when in reality no one has a clue. Learning to love yourself is no easy task, but ‘Bad Girlfriend’ addresses the even more daunting prospect of letting your guard down for someone you love, and trusting them to accept you – baggage and all. The fiery ‘Vanilla’ meanwhile sees her come out fighting, taking a defiant stand against those who would have her be someone she’s not. Each stunning single is packed to the brim with the kind of euphoric pop production and infectious earworm melodies that make you want to cast all inhibitions aside and dance your worries away. Cristina saves the best till last though, with the beautiful balladry of ‘Will You’. It’s here that all the finery is stripped away, and against the elegant piano arrangement we get the chance to bask in her truly breath-taking vocals. Cristina’s stunning range, as well as her relatable lyricism and unwavering positive energy, put her in a class all her own. And while there may be no such thing as perfection, there’s still not a thing I would change about this brilliant debut. 

Fans of Ariana Grande, Maisie Peters and Lauren Aquilina should check out Cristina’s debut EP Sell a Dream out now.

Spotlight!: Camp 8

camp8Everything is a beautiful contradiction. The debut EP from Melbourne based artist Reuben Apirana, released under his musical moniker Camp 8, has got to be one of the finest EPs I’ve ever heard. Written following a devastating break up, each track serves as a window into a different part of the journey. Starting with the seeds of doubt that something is wrong, through all the loss and anger and pain of the breakup itself, closing with the fresh doubt that comes with new love forming and finding the courage to trust again. Every aspect of the story feels suitably cinematic with its entrancingly emotive orchestration and crisp vocals. A truly immaculately produced baroque pop record. But while every aspect of the artistry at work here is grand and finely crafted, it somehow flows in a way that feels natural and effortless. Musically this release feels very polished and precise, but it also carries an emotional weight that feels raw and uncompromising. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Francesca Louise

francesca louiseThere’s a whole lot of solace to be found in sad songs. When an artist pours their heart out and releases all their fear and sorrow into the world, odds are it will find its way to someone who sees their own struggles reflected in the music. Finding comfort and reassurance rarely means having all the answers, often just the act of knowing you’re not alone, that other people are dealing with the same thoughts and feelings, is enough to keep you going. With her debut EP Melancholic Antidote, London based singer/songwriter Francesca Louise not only provides the perfect term to describe the process of fighting sadness with sadness, but also offers a prime example of it in action. Francesca is the kind of artist who holds nothing back, brave enough to bare her soul and share her fears and doubts with the world. Earnest songwriting is like a smile; you can tell when a smile is forced and when there’s a genuine spark in their eye that lights up the room. That same spark is woven into the very fabric of this EP. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Tiny Castle

tiny castleA lot of time and energy in the music world is devoted to finding something fresh and new. While it can certainly be a thrill to find a band that breaks the mold, I believe there is an undervalued charm in familiarity. Encountering a new act is a first meeting of sorts after all, and there are few greater pleasures in life than meeting someone new and falling into a natural rhythm. That moment when you and a total stranger are so perfectly tuned in to the same wavelength that you suddenly feel like you’ve both known each other for years. The debut EP from Brisbane based indie quartet Tiny Castle evokes that same sensation. Perspectives doesn’t feel like a first meeting, instead it’s as warm and familiar as a record that you’ve grown up listening to. It leaves you feeling nostalgic for some alternate history where the EP was the soundtrack of your youth.

‘Black Dove’ ascribes to The Cure’s school of being equal parts sweetness and sadness, reflecting on past love and enveloping the listener in gorgeous melodies, while frenetic synth driven rocker ‘World’ is the perfect soundtrack for hurtling down an empty highway faster than your demons can follow. The bright balladry of ‘Composure’ and ‘Madeline’ make you want to slow-dance around the room, ‘I’m Like A River’ is reminiscent of The Killers as it blends the synths with a dash of Americana, while closing track ‘Sentimental Holiday’s robust bass line, emphatic drums and light snappy riffs reminds me of The National. Perspectives is a swirling melting pot of everything from 80s AOR and post punk to modern indie and alternative.  It never feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of styles however, rather a spectrum of colour combining into a brilliant white light as the band craft a sound all their own. Even on first listen it feels like they’ve already been one of your favourite bands for years and you just didn’t know it. This Tiny Castle just feels like home.

Fans of The National, The Cure, Holy Holy and The Paper Kites should check out Tiny Castle’s debut EP Perspectives

Spotlight!: Natalie Shay

natalie shayIt seems odd to think that we’re only now writing about Natalie Shay’s debut EP. Ever since we covered her stunning single ‘This Feeling’ back in 2018 she’s been part of the furniture here on the blog, an unquestioned Belwood favourite right from the off. With just a handful of singles to her name she’s not only won us over, but has also become one of the UK’s most sensational rising stars. With each new release she has generated major buzz in the indie pop world, added to her ever growing legion of fans, and has also grown ever more assured as a songwriter and performer. Her previous releases have seen her sound grow and change, only to finally bloom on Naked as a glorious fusion of nostalgic day-glo 80s vibes and effervescent indie pop energy.

Shimmering synths, bright melodies and irresistibly danceable grooves are the order of the day here, and the infectious carefree spirit that pervades the record knows no bounds. ‘Not The Girl’ and ‘People Like Me’ boast manic wailing guitar solos, the title track ‘Naked’ has a delightful dash of retro sax, and the new stripped back version of ‘Yesterday’ adds so much depth to the track. Beneath the buoyant enthusiasm of the music however lies lyricism that details how messy and uncertain relationships can be; all the fear, temptation and conflict. The end result is a bittersweet record that feels, in more ways than one, like a John Hughes film – defiantly fun and uplifting in the face of unresolved struggles and emptiness. For most artists a debut EP is a shaky first step into the wider world, but for Natalie Shay it feels like a culmination of everything she’s worked hard to build, and a promise that this is still only the beginning.

Fans of Fickle Friends, Clean Cut Kid and 80s pop should check out Natalie’s Naked EP