Chxrlotte – Hey?

ArtistChxrlotte

Song: Hey?

Genres: #indiefolk

Location: Brighton, United Kingdom

Release date: June, 2021

Comment: Ukulele-based indie folk music is hardly a novel idea, but when it is done well and has a compelling melody, who cares? That’s exactly the case with Hey?, the latest single from British #singersongwriter Chxrlotte, a talented young artist with a bright future that you should check out.

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School of Seven Bells – Ablaze

Artist: School of Seven Bells

Song: Ablaze

Genres: #indiepop #dreampop

Location: New York City, United States

Release date: February, 2016

Comment: The story of School of Seven Bells (SVIIB) is, sadly, a tragic one. It was formed in 2007 by sisters Alejandra Deheza (vocals, guitar) and Claudia Deheza (keyboards, vocals), and Benjamin Curtis (guitar, synthesizers, vocals), but then Claudia left the band in 2010. Unfortunately, Ben, who was Alejandra’s romantic partner, died in 2013 from sudden-onset lymphoma and, as a tribute, Alejandra took some demos Ben had written prior and during his illness and completed the band’s fourth and last studio album, SVIIB, which was released in February, 2016. It is a wonderful album which, despite the circumstances in which it was created, is actually full of hope and even joy.

To me, the best among a collection of great songs is Ablaze, the first track. It’s a cleverly produced song that features Alejandra’s ethereal vocals and sweet lyrics that become even more beautiful knowing the context in which they were written. If you are only going to listen to one SVIIB song, listen to Ablaze, this week’s #ThrowbackThursday entry. You will be happy you did so.

As a bonus, I’m leaving below the link to the video of SVIIB’s cover of Joey Ramone’s I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up) (it is not available on streaming platforms). It was written by Alejandra and Ben quite literally while they were ‘sitting in a hospital bed’ and released just before SVIIB.

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Holly Humberstone – The Walls Are Way Too Thin

Artist: Holly Humberstone

Song: The Walls Are Way Too Thin

Genres: #indiepop

Location: United Kingdom

Release date: May, 2021

Influences: Phoebe Bridgers, Damien Rice

Comment: Holly Humberstone is a young and immensely talented British artist who in just over one year has managed to make a name for herself in the alternative pop scene. She’s preparing to release her sophomore EP in November, whose lead single is the eponymously titled The Walls Are Way Too Thin. She wrote this song after moving to a small flat in London and it is a catchy piece of “dark pop”. If you were not aware of Holly Humberstone before, write her name down. This won’t be the last time you hear it.

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Steve Luck – The Haven

Artist: Steve Luck

Song: The Haven

Genres: #Instrumental, #Neoclassical, #Piano

Location: Newcastle, United Kingdom

Release date: April, 2021.

Influences: Yann Tiersen, Ólafur Arnalds

Comment: The Haven is a hauntingly beautiful neoclassical piano piece named after the house in Northumberland where its composer, Steve Luck, spent most of his childhood holidays. This British artist has been composing and releasing music since 2014 and will release an album in October. Definitely keep him on your radar. In the meantime, enjoy the tenderness of this nostalgic piece.

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The Islas – The Absence Of You

Artist: The Islas

Song: The Absence Of You

Genres: #indierock #alternativerock

Location: Norwich, UK

Release date: July, 2021.

Comment: The press release for The Absence Of You mentions that the song is The Killers-esque, and quite often, when I see something like that, I immediately assume it’s hyperbole. In this case, however, I do see the similarities to some of the work from that famous band from Las Vegas, particularly during the infectious chorus and guitar-led bridge. That’s not to say that this four-piece band from Norwich sounds exactly the same though, because they don’t. The Islas know what they’re doing and we should pay attention.

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Raffael Seyfried – Passage

Artist: Raffael Seyfried

Song: Passage

Genres: #Instrumental, #Neoclassical, #Piano

Location: Germany

Release date: March, 2021.

Influences: Otto Totland, Nils Frahm

Comment: Relaxing piano-based piece from German composer Raffael Seyfried. It got a gorgeous texture that makes the whole track even more enjoyable.

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Will Naisbitt – Do It Again

Birmingham-native, London-based singer-songwriter Will Naisbitt is just 19 but already knows a thing or two about writing a hook. After cutting his teeth as a busker since he was even younger, Will released his debut single in 2019 and he hasn’t stopped releasing new songs at a steady pace. He’s been gaining notoriety and support from bloggers and radio stations alike, including BBC Introducing. I hadn’t heard of him until Do It Again dropped back in April, but that song alone is enough to make you think he’s got a promising future. If you take the time to check a few other tracks as well, you’ll be certain of that. Ed Sheeran got some competition.

Do It Again starts with some really infectious guitars and inviting rhythms. Will Naisbitt‘s vocals are really perfect for #indiepop music and that’s another reason why this track works so well. It is also pretty upbeat, even though it explores the difficult dynamics of lovers who enter a long-distance relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised if Do It Again became a summer hit but, at the very least, it should expose Will to a wider audience. This is just the start.

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BANNERS – Serenade

BANNERS is definitely one of the best indie rock acts of the last decade and if this is the first time you hear about him, you have been missing out. It is the stage name of Michael Joseph Nelson, who grew up singing in the Liverpool Cathedral choir, which included performances throughout Europe. In 2015, he decided to move to Toronto, Canada, to start his solo career there. After releasing three singles that year (the first one under the moniker Raines), he dropped his debut EP in January 2016 to moderate success and another one a year later. His first full-length album was released in 2019 followed by another EP consisting mostly of acoustic tracks last year, and he has already two brand new singles in 2021, with Serenade being the latest one. Despite how prolific he’s been so far, he’s been able to maintain the quality of his work: every single one of his releases is at least well worth your time. By all means check them out if you are not familiar with them.

As its name indicates, Serenade is a romantic song dedicated to a loved one, but it is also much more upbeat than that description would lead you to believe. BANNERS‘ vocal skills are in full display here, but the melody is so infectious that I think we could still enjoy the track if it he had a terrible voice. This indie song is as good as it gets. As usual, BANNERS didn’t disappoint. Enjoy!

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Edward Cross – MiddleHill

When I listened to MiddleHill for the first time, it reminded me of the work of Ólafur Arnalds, so seeing him listed as one of the influences of British multi-instrumentalist and composer Edward Cross wasn’t a surprise. What starts as a piano piece recorded on an old, creaky instrument, quickly ends up immersed in a full-blown soundscape that includes strings, electric guitars and woodwind. This results in a mesmerizing neoclassical song that evokes nostalgia, hope and a little bit of sadness. Written and recorded during the first lockdown, MiddleHill will keep us company for years to come.

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David Baron – The Han

Korea is a country with a long history of hardships: from Japanese occupation to many wars and losing family members when the country got divided, among other things. Korean people have a word, Han, that has no direct translation to English and is, actually, difficult to explain. It comes from the Chinese Character 恨 (Han) which means resentment, hatred, or regret; but its meaning is much more complex in Korean. It is associated with families that were separated when Korea split and linked to the concept of ‘the beauty of sorrow‘. It is a form of sadness or longing that’s become part of the Korean identity.

American composer David Baron‘s wife is Korean and they often talk about the concept of Han and how it applies to modern life. I mean, the whole world has been in a state of Han since early 2020. All of this inspired David to compose a beautiful waltz-based piano piece that “aims to capture the duality of sadness/hope”. He managed to achieve that astonishingly well because you can definitely perceive beauty and sadness impregnating The Han. It’s a hauntingly charming composition.

With regards to the artist, as an arranger, engineer and producer, David Baron has worked with artists such as Lenny Kravitz, The Lumineers, Shania Twain and Phoebe Bridgers. He’s also successfully scored films, tv shows and ads over the years. Baron releases his solo work on Woking-based UK label Here & Now Recordings, often collaborating with other artists on that label like Donna Lewis.

Enjoy The Han below.

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