Justin Forrest – Hold Steady

If you watched the second season of Cobra Kai, you may have noticed that during a party scene towards the end of the season, a cool song played for a few seconds. It caught my attention then and after a little research, I found that the song was Hold Steady by Justin Forrest. Now, he does have Instagram and Twitter accounts, but other than that, it is not much what you can find about him. He’s from Nashville and got three singles on the major streaming platforms, with Hold Steady being the most recent one. Nevertheless, Justin obviously got a knack for writing extremely catchy pop-rock songs and we should definitely keep him on our radar.

Hold Steady is definitely a #musicalcrush with an explosive chorus. Check it out below.

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Ginesse – LA Isn’t Somewhere To Die

In terms of acting, Cait Fairbanks got a successful career with Daytime Emmy-nominated roles and stints in Broadway. In 2018, she launched her music career under the moniker Ginesse, but it wasn’t until last November when she released her debut EP, Somewhere To Die. This EP consists of five tracks of hazy, melancholic indie pop that aim to transmit emotional pictures to the listener. Its lead single, LA Isn’t Somewhere To Die, is a testament to that.

Cait wrote this lead single as an ode to her friends who supported her after a tough breakup. The track got a haunting cinematic vibe that is also reflected by its music video (see below). Like any good movie, LA Isn’t Somewhere To Die does not lose its luster after you play it on repeat. I have no idea of whether Ginesse enjoys acting more than making music, but I seriously hope she doesn’t stop doing the latter as she got real talent for it.

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Natalie Shay – Naked

Naked is the eponymous single of London-based indie pop artist Natalie Shay‘s debut EP. The song and even the whole EP were heavily influenced by 80s music but still sound modern enough to make it undeniable that they were released recently (last November). Naked, in particular, got a Cyndi Lauper vibe and despite the track’s subject revolving around the breakdown of a relationship, it is one of those songs that puts you in a good mood automatically. Its music video, which you can find below, it’s also worth a watch.

Regarding Natalie Shay, she’s just 21 and received classical training at the prestigious BRIT School. Even though this is her debut EP, she’s won multiple music awards at different competitions, which has generated some buzz for her already. Today’s pop music is sadly dominated by R&B and hip hop. There is a need for more pop music like Natalie’s.

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Smallpools – A Real Hero

Last month, when I featured A Real Hero by College feat. Electric Youth as that week’s #ThrowbackThursday entry, I mentioned that I was planning to feature one of its many covers too. This great cover by Smallpools, released in 2015, is the one I was referring to. It is different enough to the original to seem a brand new song while maintaining its essence. I just love its atmospheric vibe and the guitar chords in the intro, as well as how the whole track goes in crescendo. Pro tip: if you have some high quality headphones or speakers, use them with this song.

Smallpools is a synth-happy 3-piece indie pop band from L.A. formed in 2013. Their debut single, Dreaming, got featured on the FIFA 14 videogame, which gave them a lot of exposure. Another single, Over & Over, was used in a promotional video for Snapchat. While their subsequent singles haven’t replicated the success the aforementioned tracks had, I think they have all followed a similar blueprint of indie pop. I believe what they did with A Real Hero is completely different to anything else they have done. While their music is generally good, gorgeous tracks like this cover are what could set them apart. They should do more of them,

Manuel Bellone – A Case Of An Endless Blue

Happy New Year! Today is not blue monday, but given the fact that for many of us it is the day we return to our daily routines/work after the holiday season, I’d say it comes pretty close in second place. If you’re like me, in days like these you’ll prefer to listen to sad/melancholic songs instead of happy ones, and if that’s indeed the case, I got the perfect song for you. A Case Of An Endless Blue is the latest track from Italian folk-rock singer/songwriter Manuel Bellone, who got inspired by the difficult year we all had in 2020 and being stuck at home for os long. Manuel got a raspy voice that is just perfect for the type of music he makes, including this track.

Despite being from Palermo, Sicily, Manuel got his roots in styles of music that are traditionally associated with America, such as folk, blues and country. Influenced by the likes of Ryan Adams and Neil Young, his goal is to sound classic but unique. He’s been releasing music and touring Europe with his band rather successfully since 2013, with plans to go out on tour again soon and release a new album this year. Give a chance to this true musician and hopefully A Case Of An Endless Blue will get you get through this day.

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HD Bradley – Enough

This is likely to be my last post of 2020 so I’m going to make it count by featuring a song from a talented artist who cares more about his music than himself. If you visit HD Bradley‘s social media pages, all personal info you’ll be able to find is that he’s from Chicago and likes coffee and dogs. I got his real name, Bradley Dean Honeyman, from looking at his songs’ credits on Spotify. His music gets all the spotlight.

HD Bradley is a singer/songwriter who just started releasing singles this year. Most of them consists of just an acoustic guitar and his voice, with a few exceptions. Enough, for example, got some really nice electric guitar in the bridge and backing vocals. However, the important thing to highlight here is that Bradley‘s voice is really satisfying, perfect for this type of music, and his melodies are always nice and interesting. You can listen to them all day long without getting tired. Start with Enough right here and then continue with his back catalogue. Hopefully, he’ll continue making great music in 2021.

P.S: You might notice that some of the mixtapes have fewer songs now. That’s because I have moved their songs to 2020-specific playlists, that way the mixtapes won’t become too big.

P.S2: Hope you are all enjoying the holidays break and have a much better 2021 (the bar is not too high). Thank you for your visit and see you in Jan!

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Kendall Street Company – In A Little While

Remember The Shrugs from early November? One of its members, saxophonist Jake Vanaman, also plays in another Virginia-based band called Kendall Street Company, who released recently their fourth studio album, The Stories We Write For Ourselves (I love this album name. Not only do they have a similar vibe to The Shrugs, but they even invited Abbey Potter as a guest vocalist in some of the tracks, like lead single Lady In Green. That being said, the tune that caught my attention was track #11.

In A Little While is a folk rock song with an acoustic charm and great storytelling. The vocals from lead singer Louis Smith are also perfect for that kind of music. However, do not make the mistake of thinking all 15 tracks in the album (including a prologue and epilogue) sound the same. There’s a little bit of everything, with bits of classic and experimental rock mixed in here and there. KSC are becoming a popular jam band in the Virginia region. Don’t be surprised if that starts being the case in other states too.

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The Break Plans – Crossroads

If you visit The Break Plans Facebook page, you will find that they describe their music as “Rock n’ roll with an EDM soul” or “indie pop music you can dance to — with an alternative rock vibe”. After listening to some of the singles they’ve released so far, it’s fair to say that both descriptions are pretty accurate. This band from Freehold, New Jersey, started in 2018 when lead singer Colton Braun replied to an add the other two band members, Mike Jahoda and Phil E. Eichinger, posted on Craig’s List. Getting inspiration from bands like Walk The Moon, Coldplay, and The Killers, their songs are certainly catchy and fun.

Their latest single, Crossroads, is exhibit A of everything mentioned above. It is an indie pop track with hints of alternative rock, some cool synths and even some EDM vibes. A song about feeling incomplete without that person who complements you, Crossroads is one of those tunes you could easily play on repeat. If you don’t have an aversion to radio-friendly songs, don’t lose sight of The Break Plans and check their back catalogue out. You won’t be disappointed.

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College feat. Electric Youth – A Real Hero

I can’t claim to know much about the work of electronic music composer and producer David Grellier, aka College, because, unfortunately, that’s not the case. His goal is to “synthetize into [his] music the emotions of [his] childhood”, reason for which his music is heavily influenced by ’80s pop culture. If you watched the movie Drive (2011), you should have heard his most widely known song, A Real Hero, co-written with Austin Garrick from Canadian synth-pop duo Electric Youth, duo that also features on the track. If you just listen to this song, you’ll quickly notice two things: a) It certainly has an 80s vibe, and b) It is a mesmerizing track.

Despite getting nominated to an MTV Music Award for ‘Best Music’ and becoming an underground hit, A Real Hero is still relatively unknown to the casual music fan. Even then, it has been covered multiple times by established and not so established artists (and I’m planning to feature one of those covers here soon). In fact, a fun anecdote is that a few years ago, while I was on holiday in Malta, one night there was a really good guitar player performing some music at the hotel we were staying. Near the end, he started playing a song that instantly reminded me of A Real Hero. I quickly dismissed that thought because surely that song wasn’t popular enough to be played randomly by a guitar player in a small island on the Mediterranean Sea. Well, it was A Real Hero and it was one of the highlights of that trip. Enjoy this tune as this week’s #ThrowbackThursday entry.

Crash Cathedral – MoodRing

Crash Cathedral is a new alternative pop band from Philadelphia with an experimental side. While their music is radio friendly, the background the band’s members have is actually in metal, hardcore and industrial rock, which offers a unique twist to what they do, resulting in a darker-than-usual style of alt-pop. However, I’d like to make it clear that this is not a case of artists making music they hate just because it’s popular. Instead, it is an example of musicians finding the middle ground across the multiple and sometimes dissimilar styles that they enjoy.

Back in October, Crash Cathedral released their debut single, MoodRing, which centers around relationships with people who are not what you thought they were. Musically, it draws influence from ’80s new wave while still sounding modern. What sets this tune apart is its extremely catchy chorus. You will want to put it on repeat. If this is what their debut single sounds like, I can’t imagine how great their songs are going to be once they have more time working together.

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