Top Tracks: Dizzy – Roman Candles

If there’s one adage I’ve seen proven true time and again in recent years it’s that the grass is always greener on the other side. When you’re looking at someone and wishing you had what they have, odds are they are looking at you in just the same way. People working a 9-to-5 office job will look at musicians living a creative and adventurous life and envy their freedom. It’s something we see romanticised all the time, but rarely do we see the other side of the story acknowledged. ‘Roman Candles’ flips the narrative to show that following your dreams isn’t always smooth sailing. This new single from Canadian indie pop outfit Dizzy shares the insecurity that comes from being surrounded by friends that have stability in their lives. Spending time with people who have houses and families, and generally have their shit together by the commonly accepted social standards, and fearing that you’ll never have the same on your current path. The latest cut from their new album The Sun And Her Scorch out 31st July, Dizzy’s delightful new track is packed to the brim with gorgeous melodies and boasts one of the most addictive hooks of the year. The nostalgia it evokes with its understated and bittersweet synth arrangement is every bit as warm and endearing as the golden hour glow of its charming music video. This is the first time Dizzy have crossed my radar, but if the rest of the new record is as good as this then that’s the soundtrack of my summer all sorted.

Top Tracks: Katherine Abbott – Wayward

We all feel a little lost sometimes. Those niggling feelings of doubt that make us wonder who we are, where we’re headed, and what really matters. They come and go all the time, a little moment of introspection before returning to normal. If life in lockdown has taught us anything however it’s that maybe normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe that wayward sensation should be seen as a spur towards self-discovery, a message from the universe saying that there’s a better you and a better life out there waiting to be found. Having started out her career as a busker, singer/songwriter Katherine Abbott knows all about the transformative power of cutting the ties that hold you down and following your heart. Her new single ‘Wayward’ is a track that you can get suitably lost in; her voice like the warm glow of a new dawn, the soft and airy folk arrangement washing over you like a cool breeze, and the sublime acoustic solo at its centre feels the perfect reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things in life.

Top Tracks: Tali Shear – Fool

I’d like to think my words offer something more than just a shout into the void. For the most part the whole point of the blog is to spread the word about great music that may otherwise pass people by. Great music doesn’t just appear out of thin air however, it takes an artist years of work to hone their craft, and it needs an audience willing to nurture them and help them grow. It’s one thing to listen to a song for what it is, but sometimes you have to listen and think where it can lead, to hear the promise and potential of what the future may hold. That’s what I hear in ‘Fool’. Sure, the arrangement is a little sparse and the production isn’t the most polished – hurdles that all new artists just starting out must overcome – but despite this Tali Shear’s talent is clear as day. On this gorgeous break-up ballad the London based singer/songwriter addresses the feeling of falling for someone, putting your trust and faith in them, only to be left feeling hurt and lost when they make it clear they don’t feel the same way. The openness and vulnerability in Tali’s songwriting feels raw and striking, her soulful and expressive vocals equal parts passionate and pensive. Hopefully these words reach someone who hears what I hear: an immensely talented rising star on the cusp on brilliance, an artist that they’re keen to encourage and eager to hear grow.

Top Tracks: Cristina Hart – I’m a Mess

Everyone cherry picks the best moments to show the world. All the moments of triumph, all the accomplishments you’re most proud of, all the blissful holidays and the days when you look your best. No one wants to broadcast the days when you’re an absolute shambles. All the times when you’re ill, or anxious, or clumsy. All the days when it feels like nothing is working out the way you wanted. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re the only ones who have bad days and buy into everyone’s facade, and sometimes we get so used to forcing a smile that even those close to us can’t see when we’re struggling. It takes real courage to let the glamour fall away and show the world that you’re just as flawed and imperfect as anyone, that no one has their life together the way they pretend to. Belwood favourite Cristina Hart does just that with her sparkling new single ‘I’m a Mess’. With its earworm melodies and immaculate production this dazzling self-deprecating pop powerhouse is a relatable reminder that you don’t always need to be on your A game, and to take a moment every now and then to celebrate all the little quirks that make you who you are. No need to force a smile anymore, as you won’t be able to keep from smiling with this gorgeous bop to brighten your day.

Top Tracks: Evening Hymns – Pyrenees

Some songs act as time capsules for the moment they were written. Every time you press play you get a picture of the surroundings where inspiration struck, and for a fleeting moment feel just what was running through the artist’s mind. Composed atop the eponymous mountain range, ‘Pyrenees’ was born of songwriter Jonas Bonnetta having a moment of rest and reflection alone after time spent on the road and finding catharsis in creation. All that comes across in the very essence of this latest single from Evening Hymns’ new album Heavy Nights (out 26th June). In how it’s lavish and hazy arrangement feels like standing on top of the world looking down on all the hustle and bustle below, and in how this slow burner simply crackles with pent up energy. The stunning addition of Destroyer saxophonist Joseph Shabason just lights up the song like a flash of lightning amongst rolling storm clouds. With the dreamy Americana of The War On Drugs, the multifaceted grandeur of Bon Iver and a sophisticated retro pop feel akin to Bruce Hornsby, ‘Pyrenees’ is simply marvellous from start to finish.

Top Tracks: Raye Zaragoza – Fight Like A Girl

I think we’ve seen enough misery and suffering in 2020 to last a lifetime. What we could all do with right now is something to restore our faith in humanity. Spirited singer/songwriter Raye Zaragoza has provided in our hour of need with her empowering feminist anthem ‘Fight Like A Girl’. While the song itself has an irresistible charm; an enchanting concoction of heartwarming brass, soulful vocals, passionate lyricism and vibrant folk melodies; it’s the visuals that really take the track to a whole other level. A magnificent collage of inspiring women of all faiths, ages and backgrounds coming together to show that a better world is possible. You see moments of child-like innocence, strong women standing up to let their voice be heard, and a myriad of gorgeous displays of artistic expression. There’s all kinds of vibrant snapshots of diverse cultures to shine a light on incredible women living their best lives all across the globe. There’s a truly uplifting energy to ‘Fight Like A Girl’. The winning combination of the warm and welcoming music with the empowering visuals make for exactly the kind of life-affirming experience we all need.

Top Tracks: Mashmellow – Heaven Is You

This new single from Russian dream pop duo Mashmellow sits at a gorgeous stylistic crossroads. Give it the time an attention it so richly deserves and ‘Heaven Is You’ can be both a quiet moment of introspection and a fulfilling flash of contentment. Taken from their forthcoming EP Someday Club, it bears all the familiar dream pop hallmarks we know and love; the lush hazy atmosphere, the bittersweet melodies, the way way it makes you want to wistfully stare out the window on a rainy day and ponder your place in the world. Scratch the surface however and you find that it’s a track which is full of heart and has so much more to offer. With an infectious summery groove and its lovestruck lyricism, it’s the kind of song that makes you want to look at the world through rose tinted glasses. You see those same rain clouds bathed in the warm glow of the sunset, again ponder your place in the world, and realise that at this moment you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

Top Tracks: David Ramirez – My Love is a Hurricane

Some ideas are everywhere. They spring up all over the world; crossing oceans, defying language barriers and spanning centuries. With so many unconnected people sharing the same beliefs it’s tempting to think that it’s because there’s some underlying truth to it all. Take for instance the idea that when and where we’re born can dictate who we become and the course of our future. All throughout history mankind has wondered if our stories have already been mapped out in the stars. With his latest single ‘My Love is a Hurricane’ David Ramirez is the latest mind to ponder this great mystery. Born just days after a hurricane swept through his hometown, Ramirez was left wondering after a tumultuous break-up whether he had chaos running through his veins. Whether that storm was a sign of things to come and that he was destined to forever leave havoc in his wake. The song itself however, the title track of his new album out 17th July, is far from being an untamed tempest. Instead ‘My Love is a Hurricane’ is a sumptuous slow burner: with a soft psychedelic sheen adding an air of mystery, fuzzy guitar tones growling menacingly from the darkness, powerful gospel arrangements offering a grand sense of scale, and with David’s stunning soulful vocals at the centre of it all. Being born under a bad sign can’t be as bad as they say if it means being able to create such impressive works of art as this.

Top Tracks: sym fera – little things

Long time readers will know that I’ve often been an advocate for the idea that sometimes less is more. This is true in all media, and in wide variety of situations. In horror we’re more scared of the unknown than by what is right in front of us, for a mystery to work you need to keep details obscured until just the right moment, and in music the empty space between notes is just as important as the notes themselves. This philosophy manifests in a couple of different ways on ‘little things’. Firstly the band/artist sym fera in the first place; one of the most mysterious submissions I’ve ever received. With little more than a monochrome symbol to go on, this act lets the music do all the talking. ‘Little Things’ takes full advantage of this as it slowly and purposefully says its piece. With the melancholic piano melody, soft choral hums and little splashes of orchestration all striking out before fading into the void, you get a grand sense of scale from the lightest of touches. It’s like a single candle flickering in a vast inky abyss beckoning you to come closer. This dramatic slow burner pulls you in step by step, building up tension and anticipation, before finally offering sweet release with some sublime fuzzy guitar and stunning soulful vocals that will give goosebumps to anyone with even half a heart.

Top Tracks: Moscow Apartment – Halfway

I’ve written many times about the therapeutic power of music. Both as a listener hearing words that you can connect with and relate to, and for artists expressing their thoughts and feelings in song and the catharsis that comes with sharing them with the world. Listening to this latest track from Canadian duo Moscow Apartment however, and remarking on the story behind how it came to be, I’m struck by another therapeutic quality of music that hadn’t occurred to me before. Written when Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla were still in the early days of both their friendship and their time as band mates, ‘Halfway’ was the product of an argument after some growing pains in their relationship. Half a letter of apology, and half a letter of forgiveness, this is a song that shows the unique power of making music with other people. The way that creating something together can break down walls, help you see things through another’s eyes, and potentially help build a strong foundation for a life-long friendship. Taken from their forthcoming EP Better Daughter, this bittersweet slice of dream pop (perfect for fans of Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy) is simply swimming in gorgeous melodies and reminds me of the myriad ways that music can bring people together.