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.

Top Tracks: Tom Speight – Everything’s Waiting For You

Sometimes it’s hard to envisage a way out of the darkness. Hard to keep grounded when surrounded by uncertainty. No matter how hard people try to convince you that everything will all work out in the end, when you’re at your lowest, the tempest raging inside your mind simply won’t allow you to believe them. But where words fail, being present in the moment can make a world of difference. It’s one thing simply to say that brighter days are coming, it’s something else entirely to stick by someone’s side until they do. With his anthemic new single ‘Everything’s Waiting For You’, singer/songwriter Tom Speight offers a timely reminder not to let those we care about face their darkness alone.  To say this is a song about riding out the storm together does it a disservice however, as there’s a resolute defiance and a feeling of triumph that makes this track so much more grand and uplifting. It’s a track about outrunning the storm. It grabs you by the hand and carries you through the rain, and keeps on going until the clouds are but a distant memory and the promised clear skies lie before you.

Top Tracks: Talia Mar – Jack

The tantalising tingle that spreads like wildfire across your skin, feeling your blood rush like a river bursting its banks as your heartbeat quickens, the way your head spins as you find yourself completely lost in the moment. A destructive longing for a beguiling high that all begins with an innocent brush against your lips. Love is one hell of a drug, especially when it leads you to fall for someone who would rather find that same high through other means. With ‘Jack’ Talia Mar weaves together two tales of addiction, two sides of the same story. One side increasingly dependent on alcohol as a means of escape, the other still clinging to a partner “more toxic and poisonous than the liquid in that cup”, both unable to break the pattern, holding on for the next rush of dopamine no matter the cost. Musically ‘Jack’ is every bit as intoxicating and addictive as the story it tells. Building from sparse yet sumptuous piano to an enthralling and hard-hitting electropop chorus, Talia’s beautifully bewitching vocals leave you hanging on her every word. It’s a wonderfully irresistible track that will keep tempting you back for another round time after time. (Spotify)

Top Tracks: Jesse Michael – Made For This

It’s hard to chase a creative dream (music especially) even at the best of times. In choosing to carve a path fraught with uncertainty and doubt, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle for every small piece of progress all on your own. All the while being told by people you know that you’re simply chasing a pipe dream. Moving into the new year, taking a moment to reflect on all the added challenge and hardship brought on by the mess that was 2020, I imagine there are plenty of creatives feeling hopeless and lost right now. This is a song for them. A song for anyone who has decided to pursue their passion and is currently facing a crisis of faith. With ‘Made For This’ singer/songwriter Jesse Michael offers a comforting reminder why people choose the road less travelled in the first place. When you truly love something, when it brings you a joy unlike anything else and forms an integral part of who you are, then it’s a dream worth fighting for with every last breath. It’s a message that I will gladly echo to any doubting artist, Jesse himself included; keep going.

Top Tracks: George Boomsma – Chinatown

Some music just instantly evokes a certain season. There’s something about the seminal folk style of Nick Drake for instance that to my mind feels deeply rooted in autumn. It just naturally ends up conjuring images of golden leaves caught in the breeze, of watching the rain tumble down your window pane, and of a bonfire’s embers rising into the night sky. With ‘Chinatown’, the title track of his latest EP, singer/songwriter George Boomsma brings a shift in seasons to his Nick Drake inspired sound. All the familiar hallmarks are there – the wistful wandering acoustic guitar, the soft spoken vocals, the elegant string arrangements and the raw and rustic production style – but George’s own romantic lyricism adds a kind of warmth to the mix. Somehow ‘Chinatown’ instead conjures images of an idyllic summer; of picnics in the park, walking hand-in-hand along the riverbank, and of a love growing and blossoming like a field of wildflowers. With a grim and uncertain winter ahead of us, here is a track whose comforting folk style is perfect for getting cosy with, but which also offers a promise of brighter days ahead.

Top Tracks: Brian Elliot – Better Than Dead

They say that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but I’ve always had my doubts. It can be very hard to subscribe to that way of thinking when you find yourself consumed by heartbreak. You can’t miss what you’ve never known. If you never met that person, never gave them your heart unreservedly, then you would live in ignorant bliss without knowing just how happy they could make you feel. To my mind experiencing a joy like no other, only to lose that feeling and have your heart torn asunder, seems like a far more torturous prospect. Lyrically, ‘Better Than Dead’ is about being haunted by the echoes of the past. Struggling to drown out the deafening silence that their absence has left. Seeing reminders of better times and feeling the sting of knowing that it’s now all just a fading memory. Musically however, this new track from indie maestro Brian Elliot magnificently maintains a calm and cool exterior, like wearing a smile to hide the hurt. With sweeping string arrangements, a wonderfully retro Super 8 music video, and crooning vocals reminiscent of Alex Turner, this cinematic new single from his forthcoming debut Familiar Walk To Nowhere feels effortlessly elegant and thoroughly engrossing.