Top Tracks: Amy May Ellis – Fresh Drone

So much of who we are is intrinsically tied to the turn of the seasons. Who among us hasn’t felt uplifted by the first sun of spring and seeing the leaves and flowers begin to bloom. That moment of transition which brings a lightness to your heart and a comforting feeling of familiarity. It’s a peculiar sensation, and one that seems to burn brighter with each passing year. Whether we realise it or not, captured in that moment is the memory of shifting seasons from ages past and all the changes they wrought. In the first azure sky of summer we remember the boundless feeling that came from our carefree adventures, with the first cool breeze of autumn we recall walking with loved ones beneath the golden falling leaves, and with winter’s first flakes of snow our inner child jumps for joy every time. With her blissful new single ‘Fresh Drone’, Amy May Ellis encapsulates that sense of reflection and nostalgia. Perfect for fans of Billie Marten, its light and airy folk arrangement is the perfect analogue for the feeling of simply closing your eyes, listening to the birdsong, and feeling the breeze across your skin. Taken from her upcoming EP When In The Wind, ‘Fresh Drone’ hangs over you in a delicate haze, like a fading dream still clinging on through the first light of morning.

Top Tracks: All The Queen’s Horses – The Ides Of March

There’s a subtle art to sparse arrangements. It’s all too easy for it to feel like there’s something missing; like you’re a solitary voice in the silence, surrounded by empty space yet to be filled. The key is to make the quiet work for you. Incorporating the blank canvas into the artwork itself, making the empty stage part of the story being told. Taken from the forthcoming album The Dark Below & The Isle of Dogs, this stunning song tells the tale of a man beset by misfortune and misery, foul luck forever following just a few steps behind, and struggling to find someone to help carry the weight. The song’s sparse nature amplifies all the feelings it evokes; the sorrow of being stuck on an endless spiral, where misfortune breeds more misfortune out of all your control, and the isolation of feeling like burden and a bad omen for those around you. More than that, it lets you savour each mournful rise and fall of cello, and allows the raw, soulful vocals of Sean Murphy the necessary room to captivate you with every plaintive plea. ‘The Ides Of March’ bends the stillness to its bidding and implores you to revel in every detail uncovered by the quiet, no matter how broken and intimate.

Top Tracks: John Revelle – This Bird Has Flown

I remember once reading that nearly everyone unfortunate enough to lose an arm or a leg experiences what’s known as a “phantom limb”. It’s so inconceivable that we can just carry on without such an important part of ourselves that our brains simply can’t process it. Even years after the fact it feels like there’s something still there. I’m of the mind that a similar sensation takes hold after a break-up. When those very deepest of connections that we form – the kind where the other person has your heart completely and becomes part of your whole identity – get severed, it’s hardly surprising that it feels like losing a part of ourselves. ‘This Bird Has Flown’ deftly deals with those phantom threads that remain. How that person remains at the forefront of your thoughts long after their gone. How they’re the first person you think of whenever you have news to share, how all your hopes and dreams of the future still contain an empty silhouette of them, and how some part of you deep down will always leave a light on for them to come back. With his debut single, Bear’s Den founding member Joey Haynes (under the moniker John Revelle) traces those tethers while channelling his inner Neil Young. With its gospel tinged chorus and soft twangs of banjo, this timeless slice of Americana will fittingly stay with you for a long while.

Top Tracks: Joe Devine – Giant Leap

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the worst of humanity and forget to take a step back and appreciate the good; like our uncanny ability to create, to make something seemingly out of nothing. How words on a page can change history, how paint on a canvas can inspire generations, and how a few plucked wires on a piece of wood can make beautiful music. With ‘Giant Leap’ guitarist Joe Devine offers that same sense of perspective and instils a sense of wonder. Though the song’s odd time signature and rock steady rhythm section form an already engaging foundation, the rest of the track feels like Joe has been let loose to weave an entire world of his own creation. A cathedral of sound from a few plucked strings, he packs so much feeling into this one instrumental. This ‘Giant Leap’ soars into the stratosphere with an exhilarating rush, builds moments of tension as though the ground is racing to meet you, and offers dazzlingly quick and intricate changes like a high speed chicane through the treeline. There are moments of stillness that feel like drifting through the clouds gazing at the world below, and it boasts infectious melodies to rival any pop song. I’ve often wondered why instrumental tracks so rarely break into the mainstream, but hearing it done to this standard I’m conscious now of just how high the bar has been set.

Top Tracks: Benedict – Sweet Sister

We all lead double lives. We put on a brave face and keep going through the motions, but underneath we’re all fighting our own battles. All the pain and fear that eats away at us, the hopes that we dare to cling to, the little rituals and small moments of joy that keep us together. Even for the most open among us, no one ever sees the real you, no one truly understands what it’s live your life. But sometimes it’s important to remember that the same is true of everyone else. Whether it’s a passing stranger or those closest to us, they’ve all struggled with things you couldn’t even begin to guess at. With this introspective indie rocker, Benedict takes the time to think on the trials that others have faced and wonder what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. What begins as a blend of love, admiration and regret, thinking back on his own sister’s battle with cancer and the hidden torrent of emotions she must have faced, grows into a more universal message of understanding. With its driving beat, compelling chorus, and Benedict’s striking vocals reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger, ‘Sweet Sister’ is a timely reminder to be mindful of each other’s struggles and to walk a mile in their shoes every now and then.

Top Tracks: Jonas Källstrand – Dad

I can’t remember the last time I heard so much meaning packed into such a brief song. Despite not even breaking the 3 minute mark, there’s so much feeling to be found in the latest single from Swedish singer/songwriter Jonas Källstrand. Exploring the sorrows of loss, and all the emptiness and uncertainty that follows, ‘Dad’ is a poignant and plaintive search for some ray of light to cling to. The beautifully bittersweet indie folk arrangement drifts and twirls like an autumn leaf on the breeze, and lends a comforting sense of melody to Jonas’ emotive lyricism. It’s closing refrain of “I’ve heard that no one is an island, but now the water’s closing in…” is left echoing in your thoughts as the song abruptly fades to silence, like the flicker of a candle flame snuffed out by the dark. But somehow nearly every line manages to strike a chord and tug at something deep down within. Partly due to the heart and emotion that Jonas imbues his performance with, but also thanks to how his words are so open for you to attach your own meaning. As well as offering catharsis for a sense of loss, there’s also comfort to be found here for any lost souls. Anyone, however lost or hurting or alone, can find their struggles reflected within.

Top Tracks: Mark Elliott – Talk To Yourself

We’re all our own fiercest critics. We make mountains out of every molehill, overthinking the kind of flaws and failures in our lives that no one else would pay any mind to. We fixate on every minor bump in the road, and never give our little victories the time and attention they deserve, to the point where we lose perspective on just how much progress we’ve made. But the people we hold dear often know us better than we know ourselves, and where we see the worst they see the very best in us. A caring mother will beam with pride at how far you’ve come even if you feel stuck in a rut, and a good friend will pick you up when you feel low and remind you of all the ways you make their life richer. With ‘Talk To Yourself’, seasoned songwriter Mark Elliott presents the sage advice that we should look at ourselves through their eyes once in a while, and offer the same reassuring words that they would when times get tough. This wholesome and heart-warming slice of Americana, every bit as smooth and soulful as Chris Stapleton’s ‘Tennessee Whiskey’, carries an uplifting charm that just brightens the room every time. An early song of the year contender, we could all benefit from basking in its warm glow and taking its wise words to heart.

Top Tracks: Sophie Morgan – Always

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for character driven songs. Those moments when an artist decides to walk awhile in someone else’s shoes and tell a part of their story. Often I find it offers that little extra hit of escapism, something we could all use with these dark and lonely lockdown days getting us down. As it happens though, ‘Always’ hits pretty close to home in that regard, as it tells the tale of someone for whom isolation feels all too familiar. “I had that first line “leave the tv on” about watching dodgy daytime television shows… It made me think of elderly people, maybe who have lost their significant other, spending most days dreaming of special nights dancing together, losing a little bit of sanity with each passing day alone“. Such moving inspiration has lovingly been brought to reality with this sublime new single. Sophie Morgan’s signature wistful warmth and vivid imagery offering a bittersweet blend of the blissful escape of nostalgia and the painful pangs of loneliness. The song is stunning as ever from this Belwood favourite, but it’s the accompanying video that really sets it apart. The wonderful choreography capturing all the grace and elegance of the golden age of Hollywood, but all the while the façade ready to fall away and bring us back to reality.

Top Tracks: Bertie Newman – Lost

We so often hear about the pain of break-ups, less so about about the debilitating wave of confusion that accompanies it. The struggle of knowing where to turn and how to carry on when someone that had become a huge part of your life leaves a daunting void in their wake when they’re gone. True to its name, ‘Lost’ perfectly captures the adrift feeling that comes with a broken heart. Trying to disentangle yourself from all the ways your lives were once interwoven, not knowing who to turn to as the person you were closest to is now gone. Even looking back on the time you shared together can leave you facing mixed feelings; are you grateful for those happy memories, or sad that you won’t get the chance to make more of them together. With the heartfelt folk of his debut single, promising singer/songwriter Bertie Newman delivers the kind of relatable lyricism, soft wistful vocals and mellow idyllic arrangements that instantly win you over. It’s a stunning first release, a track that sees Bertie wear his hurt and doubt proudly on his sleeve, and already all I need to call him “one to watch” in my book.

Top Tracks: Jenny Kern – Coming Back For Me

I recall once reading about the quietest room in the world. How people can only endure being inside it for a few minutes at a time, as the deafening silence allows you to hear the sounds of your body that the world would otherwise drown out. In a way I feel like this phenomenon applies to any extended period of isolation – something we’ve all had in abundance this past year. It’s when we’re alone with our thoughts that our minds wander the most. Somehow the quiet stillness of solitude is all it takes to open the floodgates. All those fears you dare not acknowledge, the memories long faded rushing back in vivid detail, the pent-up emotions you hoped would simply fade away; all surging unbidden to the forefront of your thoughts. It’s a difficult feeling that can make you want to run and drown it all out again. But by learning to embrace these moments, by learning to be okay with being alone, we can better process all the unseen and unspoken tension wearing us down. It’s a sentiment perfectly suited to Jenny Kern’s signature introspective style. With this new track from her forthcoming EP, full of fine details to discover on further listens, Jenny’s dreamy vocals and the slow burning soundscape provides all the company you need for a quiet night of reflection.