Top Tracks: The A.M.s – Smoke

Each and every moment is, by its very nature, fleeting. Try as we might to long to hold on a little longer, time must inevitably march on; as futile as trying to catch smoke, it will always slip through your fingers eventually. But smoke lingers – it hangs in the air, clings on to whatever refuge it can find, and remains long after the last embers have dulled to ash. A moment may pass, but sometimes the memory of it can last a lifetime. Americana duo The A.M.s have elegantly captured that wistful sense of reminiscence and reflection with the latest single from their forthcoming debut album Ignite The Sky. Combining bright piano tones, a dash of jazz in its intricate and engaging percussion, and an expressive autumnal folk arrangement that evokes Nick Drake, ‘Smoke’ is a warm and welcoming recollection of treasured nights of togetherness shared around the campfire. Much as those last few wisps of smoke still persist, so too does this track stay with you.

Top Tracks: The Little Kicks – Right To Be Here

No one else tears us down half as much as that little voice in the back of our own minds. The one that tries to convince you that you’ll fall flat on your face every time you step out of your comfort zone, the one that belittles and trivializes your every accomplishment, the one that says you’re perpetually two steps behind everyone else. It’s something we all hear nattering away on the side-lines now and then, but it becomes all the louder when working in a creative industry like music. Imposter syndrome works overtime to undermine everything you’ve built. With ‘Right To Be Here’ Aberdeen indie outfit The Little Kicks offer a firm and defiant stand against that debilitating fear and doubt. Taken from their forthcoming album People Need Love, out 30th September, the Scottish rockers’ latest single boasts warm soulful vibes, an understated funky groove, and a sense of elegance and grandeur to its immaculately produced arrangement that all comes to a head in its uplifting climax. In an age of doubt and self-deprecation, taking pride in yourself becomes a radical act, and never before has that particular sin sounded quite so heavenly.

Top Tracks: Lizzie Reid – Love Of Her Life

When you first have your heart broken, it feels like a fierce storm is raging all through your body. A force of nature, wild and unpredictable, let loose: from the grey fog that clouds your mind, the dropping pressure in the empty pit in your stomach, to the stabs of pain in your tender heart like flashes of lightning. There’s so much disruption and upheaval that even the parts of your life you thought most enduring may form cracks down to their very foundations. ‘Love Of Her Life’, the new single from Scottish singer/songwriter Lizzie Reid, isn’t about the fury of the tempest. Instead this track from her upcoming EP Mooching, out August 31st, deals with the eerie stillness that follows. That period after the initial heartbreak where you can survey the damage with a fresh, wiser perspective now the dust has settled. Picking up the pieces and doing your best to move forward. Lizzie’s tender, wistful vocals take centre stage, with the soft and subtle arrangement punctuated with sublime bluesy riffs that pierce the calm like the rumble of distant thunder.

Top Tracks: Samuel James Taylor – Wild Tales and Broken Hearts

We’re all the author of our own story, so long as we can muster the strength to tell the tale our hearts long to tell. It’s easier said than done though, admittedly. When you’re a young idealist it’s almost second nature to find joy in little things and believe that anything is possible, but as the years pass and life throws up more and more unexpected obstacles and setbacks, it’s only natural to be discouraged and feel that the days of adventure and ambition are behind you. ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’ offers a reminder that beyond every barricade lies a road less travelled. You’ve made it this far, so you owe it to yourself to remember what drove your idealistic self down that road to begin with, and to see the journey to its end. Tyke troubadour Samuel James Taylor turns his own story into one of resilience and passions reignited with this latest single. The title track from his forthcoming album, out 21st October, its spirited folk arrangement and heartening message to keep striving for the life you wanna live make it the ideal anthem to help you push through hardship and hold on to the dream of better days.

Top Tracks: Lily Agnes – Messy As My Mind

Whether it’s being stuck staring at the same four walls in lockdown, struggling to pull yourself out of a depressive hollow, or just another one of those sleepless nights, there are few things as demoralising as being left alone with your thoughts. It’s amazing all the unspoken fears, repressed insecurities, and memories best left forgotten that worm their way to the surface when you’ve no one but your own subconscious for company. Hard to be productive when your train of thought is bouncing around like a Roomba from one anxious worry to another; and it’s in these moments that we become our own worst critics, questioning every decision we’ve ever made. It’s a familiar situation for us all, but rarely has overthinking ever sounded this good. With ‘Messy As My Mind’ singer/songwriter Lily Agnes puts her own soulful stamp on those listless nights. Between the elegant jazz arrangement, intricate and expressive percussion, and Lily’s intoxicating vocals hitting your system like a shot of whisky, there’s no better track to help drown out those inner demons.

Top Tracks: Davis John Patton – Vacant Airport

Sometimes love isn’t about those that would rush to your side at a moments notice. Instead, true love is often about those that are still there by your side when everyone else is gone. It’s one thing to say “always” or “forever“, but it’s another to genuinely mean it and put it into practice. Iowa based singer/songwriter Davis John Patton captures this kind of commitment and devotion brilliantly with his new track ‘Vacant Airport’. Told through the metaphor of waiting at an empty terminal, completely deserted and devoid of life, for the one arrival that truly matters, it beautifully reflects the lofty romantic ideal of being the last one standing – that us-against-the-world mentality – through the lens of a small act of everyday love. It’s all delivered with an earnestness that leaves you in no doubt that Davis would wait a hundred years without a moment’s hesitation. Airy melodies, wistful bittersweet vocals, and with a soft introspection that recalls Hollow Coves and early Bon Iver, ‘Vacant Airport’ is an essential addition for your most mellow and reflective playlist.

Top Tracks: &Tilly – Unopen

In a way self-improvement and wanderlust are built on similar foundations; the faith that there’s something better waiting just over the horizon, and a sense of yearning to find a place where you belong. When you’re trying to reach a better place, within yourself or in a more literal sense, the first step is always the hardest. The bittersweet new song ‘Unopen’ from singer/songwriter duo &Tilly reflects on finding the courage to take that step, its title a play on words of an unopen personality throwing up walls, and an open road leading to a happier life. With hauntingly fragile vocals and bright percussive piano reminiscent of The Lumineers, it’s a track swimming in arresting melodies. Paired with the stunning cinematography of its marvellous monochrome video, all told ‘Unopen’ is a real delight. Whatever road you take, whatever walls need knocking down, the better life you’re looking for is one with this song in it.

Top Tracks: Francesca Louise – Odyssey

When we’re at our lowest, weighed down with loss and uncertainty, we find ourselves searching for answers. But often, the more desperately we search, we only end up finding further questions. We go through our lives assuming deep down there’s some rhyme and reason to everything, but in the face of terrible struggle and grief it’s easy to feel defeated and lose faith. Feeling swallowed up by the darkness, a single drop of water at the whim of a vast savage ocean, asking yourself: “does any of it really matter?”. But in a life so fragile, a mere speck in the wider picture, in truth there is more meaning to be found, not less. With her contemplative new single ‘Odyssey’, Belwood favourite Francesca Louise brings that meaning to light. This beautifully bittersweet and cathartic folk number reminds you that every moment is made all the more precious by the fact that it is fleeting. That every life that touches our own is a blessing, a miraculous chance encounter in endless space and time. And I for one count myself lucky to have had this particular fleeting moment of beauty cross my path.

Top Tracks: Kris Angelis – Win The Game

I’ve often heard it said that the mark of a great relationship is when there’s no fighting, but I don’t think that’s accurate. All couples fight, all partnerships will find themselves on opposite sides of an issue at some point or other, butting heads over the divide. What makes a great relationship is not letting every problem become a fight between the two of you, but recognising that the real fight is the two of you against the problem. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Opening with a haunting piano waltz that sounds like a tune from some magical music box, the new single ‘Win The Game’ from singer/songwriter Kris Angelis deals with the struggle of trying to be the bigger person. With its telling refrain of “I’d rather jump in and clean up the mess, than win the game of who cares less” it details the feeling of trying to turn your attention from the other person to the problem at hand, and ending up fighting a battle on two fronts. Captured in Kris’ elegant vulnerability is the truth of the matter; that the most important things in life are generally worth fighting for.

Top Tracks: Alex Francis – If I Can’t Have You

Glorious sun is beaming down, ice creams and cold beers are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and festival season will soon be kicking off in earnest – summer is officially here! Arguably our first proper summer with Covid in the rearview mirror. All we’re missing to complete the picture is that “song of the summer” to soundtrack the good times ahead. May I submit for your consideration ‘If I Can’t Have You’ from Belwood favourite Alex Francis. This wonderfully soulful outing from the Hertfordshire based singer/songwriter is all about the joyous release of realising what truly matters, throwing your fears aside and putting yourself out there in the pursuit of happiness. Exactly the vibe we’re looking for in our first summer of freedom. Residing at the perfect intersect between grit and polish, ‘If I Can’t Have You’ captures the timeless roots rock spirit of Muscle Shoals in its feel-good groove, and its sublime production ensures that every facet of the sunkissed arrangement and every word of Alex’s soulful vocals lands with maximum impact.