Top Tracks: Marlene Oak – Come Home

I’ve never heard another voice quite like this. In Swedish singer/songwriter Marlene Oak I can hear hints of Jeff Buckley, a fair bit of Dolores O’Riordan, and a whole heap of old school soul, all blending together into a pretty unique concoction. Vocals that are equal parts forceful and fragile, which end up being the perfect match for a song like ‘Come Home’. Taken from her upcoming EP Silver Moon, out 15th February, it’s a track all about finding your soulmate. Finding an all-encompassing love that fills an empty space inside that you perhaps never even knew was there. A love so deep feels much like Marlene’s vocals on this track. Something so powerful that it consumes your entire being, that you forget all else exists, and yet in turn leaving you so open and vulnerable, quivering on the edge of breaking point. They say that love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to, and Marlene imbues that same raw emotion into this song.

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Top Tracks: Natalie Shay – Yesterday

Up and coming singer/songwriter Natalie Shay was one of the new acts that impressed us most last year, and she’s already making waves in 2019 with her new single ‘Yesterday’. The addictive indie pop offering shows another new facet to her talents and features her best vocals and most infectious hooks to date. All about moving on from a one-sided relationship, and falling for someone who was never as committed as you, the track does a great job of wrapping up its honest and meaningful lyricism in an impeccable pop sheen. It’s the kind of song where you can draw what you want from it. Whether you’re looking for a break-up anthem or a new bop to get you up and dancing, it just depends on what mood you’re in. It varies from listen to listen, but you’ll have plenty of chance to explore both sides as I guarantee you’ll have it on repeat.

Top Tracks: Andrew Leahey – Airwaves

Americana and nostalgia are always a winning combination, you need look no further than this track for proof. ‘Airwaves’ is a layered love letter to the days when radio ruled the world, the days when the M in MTV stood for music and not miscellaneous. It’s a celebration of the sounds that became an important foundation for so many people growing up, and a sad reflection on how future generations will never know what they’re missing out on. More than that, it’s a view into a more personal connection with the music. Singer/songwriter Andrew Leahey underwent an operation that risked not only his hearing, but his life. An experience like that is sure to make someone appreciate the little things in life all the more, like hearing a song on the radio that just awakens something inside you. ‘Airwaves’ is a message: take it from someone in the know, seize the day and cherish the music that made you.

Top Tracks: Distant Days – Wrap Your Arms Around The Light

The latest track from Swedish band Distant Days plays like a nights sleep. Its softer moments drift by like a dream, notes falling soft like snowflakes in the magical winters you remember from your youth. The sweeping strings and gorgeous piano offer such a comforting atmosphere, like the song is an old lullaby half remembered from childhood. In the darker moments however the song takes a more sinister turn, as the dream shifts into more nightmarish territory. It offers an unsettling edge which keeps you guessing as you wait for the sweetness to return, and it just makes it feel all the more rewarding when it does. There’s just something heartwarmingly familiar about this song as a whole that I can’t quite put my finger on. ‘Wrap Your Arms Around The Light’ may wear its influences on its sleeve, recalling the likes of Nick Cave, Lou Reed and David Bowie, but it wears them well and does them justice.

Top Tracks: Michael McArthur – Elaine

“Love is all you need”. Besides the obvious Beatles connotation, it’s a sentiment that has been attempted to be expressed in countless ways. The trouble is in trying to sum up a love so potent in mere words, or in the same chords that make up every song under the sun. Neither can really do it justice. True love is beautiful and baffling. It can weather the fiercest storms and only gets stronger with time while all others crumble and fade. This track from Florida’s Michael McArthur doesn’t capture that indescribable feeling, but it comes closer than almost any song I can think of. ‘Elaine’, taken from his debut album Ever Green, Ever Rain out 25th January, reminds me what it’s like to fall deeply and completely in love. That warm glow that outshines all else, that feeling that you could almost just close your eyes and float away.

Top Tracks: Skip Curtis – Wild Love

The debut single from Welsh singer/songwriter Skip Curtis is imbued with the spirit of adventure. ‘Wild Love’ is the kind of track that makes you want to shed all your responsibilities, leave your fears and insecurities behind, and just take off running. There’s an energy to it that compels you to keep seeking the next horizon in the hope that there’s a better place awaiting you on the other side. As much as the song calls out to you to get away from everything that’s holding you back, it manages to provide its own escape with its driving bass, emphatic chorus and infectious energy. ‘Wild Love’ whisks you away and reminds you that you can’t let a particular place or person to define who you are, sometimes you just have to take the plunge into the unknown and see where it leads.

Top Tracks: Averly – Patient

Belwood favourite Jonny Carroll has teamed up with producer extraordinaire Jon Class for new indie pop project Averly. It’s always rewarding to hear an artist you know exploring new ground and experimenting with new ideas, and there’s no better way to do that than collaborating with another artist. This duo has brought two different worlds together and each side injects their own ideas and idiosyncrasies into their debut single ‘Patient’. Detailing that familiar disheartening frustration when you feel as though you’re not making as much progress towards your personal goals as you’d hoped, ‘Patient’ dances with shimmering melodies. It’s rooted in an organic indie sound, occasionally reminiscent of Manchester Orchestra, albeit cloaked in an air of electropop that knows all the right buttons to push. It delivers all it promises and more, and certainly marks an assured first step for this new partnership.

Top Tracks: Opia Bloom – Side By Side

The spectacular new single from Brighton based rockers Opia Bloom (fka YOUTH) is an indie fan’s dream come true. ‘Side by Side’ boasts bombastic drums, soaring riffs, the nostalgic fuzz of super 8 film, and the kind of anthemic chorus that you’ll spend half the summer belting out at the top of your lungs. Even though this track veers pretty close to perfection, the same isn’t true of lot of things in life, like the kind of rollercoaster relationship that the song describes. When you both seem to find yourselves clashing with each other, a constant push and pull where you’re as much enemies as lovers, but despite it all you’d be lost without them by your side. Even in the depths of winter I can say with some confidence that this will be the soundtrack of my summer next year.

Top Tracks: Janet Devlin – I Lied To You

It feels like such a long time since we last heard new music from Janet Devlin, but this new single is worth the wait. With its breathy vocals, elegant strings and confessional lyrics, ‘I Lied To You’ is perhaps her most intimate and heartfelt work to date. In this image centred world we find ourselves in, where we constantly try to maintain the illusion that our lives are perfect, it’s hard to admit when things are wrong or when you’ve made a mistake. Doubly so when you find yourself in the spotlight. It’s an admirably open and honest track, though it’s the kind of song that people can attach their own meaning and importance to. With this taste of her upcoming album, I’m excited to see what else Janet has in store for 2019.