Young Ritual – Dylan’s Dream

Dylan Grantham is a singer/songwriter from Michigan who writes and performs music as Young Ritual. Having the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and The National as influences, he composes beautiful indie/folk songs highlighted by honest lyrics, his heartfelt voice and his guitar. The global pandemic in 2020 gave him an opportunity to stay creative, releasing a stripped-down EP, Spare Room, earlier this year and even more songs after that. Dylan’s Dream was the first single from that EP.

Written, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Grantham from his home studio, Dylan’s Dream is a captivating song about a fever dream where people act on their worst impulses, leading to a dystopian society. Its title is a callback to an older Bob Dylan song called, Bob Dylan’s Dream. Both tracks are similar in style, but if I had to choose only one of them, I think I would prefer Young Ritual‘s one. I’m not saying you’ll agree with me, but you should at least give it a chance, which you can do on the mixtapes below.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Forest Blakk – If You Love Her

I think one of the hardest things for a songwriter to do is to write beautiful romantic songs that aren’t cheesy. Seriously, how many are there that don’t say things like “I’ll die for you” or “I can’t live without you”? Not that many. Luckily, that list is slightly bigger now with the addition of this new song from Canadian singer/songwriter Forest Blakk: If You Love Her. It is a nice song with great vocals and a good melody, but what really sets it apart, I think, are its lyrics.

I discovered Forest Blakk two years ago when Apple Music recommended its song Tread Lightly to me. He describes his style as urban folk, mixing the tranquility of folk music with the chaotic rhythm of a city. He’s been releasing his songs to streaming platforms just since 2018 but at a steady pace, so he got a good number of singles out already. Check them out when you feel thirsty for new music.

For the time being, listen to this beautiful song here.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

LEK – World Cup

One important quality all artist must have is perseverance. There are countless stories of writers, painters and musicians, among others, who found success only after they were rejected multiple times. If you believe in yourself, just keep trying. That is something that today’s artist, LEK, got in his favour: he doesn’t take no as an answer.

Born in New York and based in New Jersey, this multi-intrumentalist artist has led quite an interesting life. From leaving medical school to follow an Indian guru in California, to backpacking for months in Southeast Asia, India and South America, including teaching himself how to read and write Thai, he has done it all. Now, Lek is focusing on his music, having released 3 full albums in 2020 alone already, each one of them covering different genres: from psychedelic rock to acoustic folk going through Thai rock covers.

Now, I’m not a big fan of psychedelic music, and when LEK reached out to me to see if I would be interested in featuring one his earlier songs from that genre, I declined letting him know that. Then, when he was about to release his latest album, Surya, which leans more towards the indie/folk side, he reached out again to gauge my interest, which led me to discover World Cup. It got a nice melody with beautiful guitars and soothing vocals, but what really sets it apart are its lyrics. Had you heard before a folk song mentioning Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? This is your chance!

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Nick Kingswell – I Didn’t Try

Nick Kingswell is an Australian singer-songwriter whose music deserves to be featured in indie movie soundtracks. I Didn’t Try is a perfect example of that, with its acoustic backdrop, sweet melody and Nick’s soothing voice; it could very well be the song that started playing when Tom is lovesick after Summer breaks up with him in 500 Days of Summer. And that is a movie with a great soundtrack.

Nick recently moved to the UK looking to push his music career, and the experience of adapting to a new place while longing for your home place inspired him to write a few songs for his new album, Brontide, which will be released this month. Keep him on your radar because this kind of heartfelt music is always welcome. While we wait for the new album, listen to I Didn’t Try and add it to your soundtrack for this week or month.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Habitantes – Antes de partir

I’ve said before that music is universal, and in the same way we featured earlier a song written and performed in French, it is the turn now for a nice indie song in Spanish. Habitantes is an alternative/indie rock band from Mexico that can be really versatile when it comes to musical style. They can go from high-energy garage rock to indie folk with stunning ease. Antes de partir is an example of the latter type of music, a melodic and captivating tune that reveals the acoustic side of this Latin American act.

After starting in 2015, they have released singles and b-sides consistently since then. There will be a new full length album out very soon too. Antes de partir is not going to be part of it, which prompted Habitantes to drop it as a single now. It has been produced by themselves, as they are passionate about all aspects of making music. I don’t think they are widely known outside of Mexico yet, but they got the talent to become a force within the Latin American rock scene and beyond. They only need a tiny bit of luck. Hopefully, this little entry will help.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Free Country – Throw My Voice

Throw My Voice is a pretty quiet track that could have fitted pretty well in the award-winning soundtrack for Garden State. Free Country is the stage name of singer/songwriter Jason Ribadeneyra, who earlier this year released his second EP, The Life Of Riley, which consists of 8 songs. Throw My Voice is the second single off of it.

Jason lost his brother to the opioid epidemic in the US and I can’t help but think the heartfelt lyrics in this single were at least inspired by him. An indie folk track, Throw My Voice is one of those songs you can enjoy best on a rainy day. If you enjoy emotive folk songs with soothing melodies, this little song will be right up your alley.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Marcus Lee – Not For You

Something great is going on at Songwriting at Berkeley. Remember Lucy Eaton? She was a VP of that student group at UC Berkeley. Well, today’s featured artist, Marcus Lee, not only is/was a member as well, he co-founded it. And speaking about Lucy, Marcus collaborated with her on recording and releasing her debut single, the stunning Rotten Love. Last Friday, it was Marcus’ turn to release music on his own with Not For You, a hauntingly beautiful indie folk track.

A self-taught producer and mixing engineer, Marcus started as a jazz musician, but his love for folk music eventually led him to start writing songs with a guitar in college. His goal when producing and writing his own songs is to share intimate and impactful experiences through his music, which is something that he certainly achieved with Not For You. This gorgeous song reminds me of Gale Song by The Lumineers, which should give you an idea of the raw emotions Marcus is capable to evoke with his art.

Below, you can watch Marcus performing his single live, and in the mixtapes below, you’ll be able to find the ‘studio’ version. This is not music to be danced to. It is music to be felt.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Lucy Eaton – Rotten Love

As you may be aware now, the one condition I have for featuring songs here is that I have to genuinely like them. The bar is a bit higher for established musicians, but I can certainly say that I have liked every song featured so far. Sometimes, the decision isn’t easy. I’ve received songs from independent or up-and-coming artists that I don’t necessarily dislike, but do not love either; and then I have to ask for a 2nd opinion (usually my wife’s) just to make a decision. On the opposite side of that street, we have something far more unusual, which is hearing a song that I instantly like or even love. There’s something magical about those moments and it is a feeling I wish I could get every single day. Sadly, it is actually rare but the good news is that this happened to me with today’s song, Rotten Love, as it got a really enjoyable melody, a crisp production, great lyrics and sweet vocals. In short, it got the whole package.

It is scary to think that this piece is 21-year-old singer/songwriter Lucy Eaton‘s debut single. Can you imagine what she will be able to do with more experience? This talented artist was born and raised in Australia but then moved to California to study at UC Berkeley. There, she joined the songwriting club almost by chance and eventually became its vice-president, winning a few awards int he process. However, she never envisioned performing the pieces herself. That happened almost by chance but all the better for us because Lucy got a nice dulcet voice.

Musically, Rotten Love is a folksy ukulele-based tune, in the same vein as Grace VanderWaal when she won America’s Got Talent a few years back. Grace’s songs were good and catchy for somebody her age, but Rotten Love is just as catchy and got better lyrics. Even if you hate folk music and the sound of ukuleles, give this terrific song a chance. Lucy‘s talent cannot be denied.

Featured on the following mixtapes:

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers is the world’s favorite indie/folk artist right now. In fact, when she released her second album, Punisher, one day earlier yesterday, she became a trending topic on Twitter. So, I don’t think you need me to tell you who she is. You probably know that already.

Anyway, that a true singer/songwriter singing this type of music is having so much success in this day and age, is something that I think should be celebrated. It’s pretty rare nowadays. Besides, despite being the song after which the whole album was named, the song I’m recommending here today, Punisher, has not been released a single so far (those have been Garden Song and Kyoto). I cannot say was a huge fan of Phoebe. I mean, I do like her but not in a cannot-stop-listening-to-her kind of way. That being said, I loved the ethereal mood of this song from the first time I heard it. Ms. Bridgers has a soft and delicate voice that pulls you in in a hypnotic way. As a curious side note, musicians use the term punisher to refer –in kind of a condescending way– to super fans that linger at the merch booth in live shows a little too long. Phoebe wrote this song as if she would have been Elliot Smith’s punisher.

Maybe I’ll become a big fan after all. What about you?

Featured on the following mixtapes:

The Strumbellas – I’ll Wait

Canadian band The Strumbellas had a moderate hit a few years ago with their song, Spirits, yet they remained relatively unknown to the casual listener. Last year, they returned with their fourth album, Rattlesnakes, which included the anthemic folk single you can find below. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you must do it now because its infectiously uplifting melody will put a smile on your face and make you sing-along.

I’ll wait became an instant musical crush for me the first time I heard it. I hope it does the same for you.

Featured on the following mixtapes: