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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Middle Part – Busy

After experiencing a major adversity, Brooklyn-based singer Andrew Selkōw moved to Alaska for a while to find himself. Being alone and surrounded by nature rekindled his love for literature and music and planted the seed for Middle Part to be born. Inspired by both 1990s and early 2000s alternative bands, Andrew composes sincere music that connects with you at many levels. On December, Middle Part released his debut EP, I Wish I Was Alive, which compiles the singles he had published already.

One of those singles is Busy, a laid-back tune that relies on hazy vocals, acoustic guitars, and soft synths to deliver a message of vulnerability. Influenced by artists like Natalie Imbruglia and Michelle Branch, Middle Part wrote Busy to warn us about the problems ego brings to friendships. I don’t know if it is because of the guitar, the vocals or the steady beat, but somehow this song reels you in and doesn’t let go until long after it’s ended.

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Xavier Valdez – Bear

Xavier Valdez is a singer/songwriter from California who debuted as a solo artist in 2020. However, he used to play bass and provide backup vocals on LA-based band MR CALL, so he wasn’t a neophyte to the music business. His style is indie rock with nice pop touches that make it really enjoyable. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that his sound is completely unique, but it’s certainly distinctive enough to be refreshing.

After releasing a few singles in early 2020, Xavier compiled them into his debut EP, Sun, in August. Then, in November, he dropped a brand new single, Bear, that really reflects everything I said above about Xavier’s sound. While Bear is the track I am recommending today, check out the Sun EP too. Xavier Valdez is certainly a talented artist who knows how to make appealing indie music.

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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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Josh Stevens – Hello Darling

Josh Stevens has either been nominated or won quite a few awards, including the Grammys, mostly as a music producer. He got all that success working with dance and/or hip-hop artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Steve Aoki and Pitbull. So, naturally, he now sings and writes indie rock songs. And, let me tell you, he’s quite good at that.

Late last year, Josh released a superb track called Hello Darling, which he wrote for her daughter. It is an upbeat and anthemic song with neat production and great, emotional vocals. The track even features some sleek guitar riffs that are just the cherry on top. Quite simply, it is a really great tune.

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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,

almost sex – charmer

Nick Louis, who is a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumental singer songwriter who’s been involved with other bands and is skilful at writing catchy hooks, met HW LaSota, who is an architect and writer, online basically by chance. That led to several months of remote collaboration and eventually to the formation in 2020 of almost sex, which they describe as “a folky alternative post punk rock indie pop duo“. Nick is the lead singer and instrumentalist while HW writes the lyrics. provides harmonies and plays several instruments. They haven’t told me this but I guess the band’s name is meant to imply that their music is almost as good as sex. Clever.

The duo has released two singles so far. The first one, Knockoff, was more acoustic, revealing the folky alternative side of almost sex. The second single, on the other hand, relies more on a groovy electronic soundscape that hypnotizes you for the duration of the track, helped in no small part by HW LaSota‘s subtle harmonies as her voice combines pretty well with Nick‘s. Charmer is inspired by the story of the snake and the charmer (hence its cover art above) and closes with a cool coda that contrasts nicely with the rest of the track. Let me put it this way, this song could have been part of The Neighbourhood‘s debut album and been one of its highlights, that’s how good it is.

Pay attention to almost sex because they really got a promising future.

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Five Days North – Take Me Higher

Five Days North must be the band with the highest aggregate IQ. Really. Most, if not all, of the members of this five-piece act from Manchester are scientists or doctors. I don’t think there are many bands out there that can claim that. Their specialty in music is indie pop and they’re quite good at that, even winning a few competitions for unsigned bands in the UK.

Take Me Higher is just exhibit A of the knack they got for catchy melodies. The track, which was written as a collaborative piece amongst the band members, got colorful synths and incisive bass lines that make the whole song really hard to resist to. Released in 2020 after the lockdown, Five Days North have not been able to play it live yet but it will probably become one of the highlights of their live gigs once that becomes a thing again. In the meantime, you can improve your day by listening to this cheerful song below.

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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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