What? Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Where? Tucson, Arizona
What they say? “I love this song and I love the universality of the lyrics and the call and response sea of voices,” Calexico vocalist / guitarist Joey Burns said of recording ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’. “I decided to start as quiet as possible and find out how loud and massive we could make this song build.”
Why we love it? Approaching a festive period that will surely be split equally between the vagaries of lockdown restrictions, vaccine trials and repeated airplay for Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ it is reassuring to find that Calexico have not lost sight of the key principles of social unity, peaceful change, and the acceptance of both personal and collective responsibility. And what is even more, they make a pretty damn good fist of John and Yoko’s seasonal staple. (Simon Godley)
FFO: Iron & Wine, Giant Sand, Los Lobos.
Who? Eädyth / Asha Jane
Why we love it? Powerfully timeless with smooth vocals, a strong message, and clean production that allows the detailed vocals to breathe. Harmonies upon harmonies create a heavenly sonic experience that results in the best offering from both of these talented artists thus far. (Lloyd Best)
FFO: Solange, Laura Mvula, Chloe x Halle
Who? Ebony Buckle
What? You’re Loved
Why we love it? Soft echoes of melancholy drip from this track as the soft synths and piano twinkle behind a beautiful and somber vocal, the message of the song is underpinned with hope making this an ultimately rewarding listen about finding strength in hard times. (Lloyd Best)
FFO: Sarah Barielles, Ingrid Michaelson
Who? Natalie Shay
What they say? The accompanying music video for “Naked” emphasises this idea of not wanting to settle down while your entire life still lies ahead of you. Filmed in the beautiful dunes of Camber Sands, we see Shay waking up on her wedding day and having second thoughts. Refusing to be anyone’s wife, she chases after happier times, trying to reignite them.
Why we love it? A retro-tinged pop hit with polished vocals, detailed harmonies, and clean production that makes it a joy to listen to. Shay’s emotion shines through with a strong melody that will get struck in your mind. (Lloyd Best)
FFO: Taylor Swift, MARINA,
What they say? ‘Run‘ is an experience lived by many of our brothers around the world – it is the dichotomy of walking your truth as a human being, and negotiating your survival as a black man. The turbulent nature of 2020 has caused many of us to reflect on our own individual worlds – what they need, how they feel, and where they sit within the ever-changing world we all share. In this time I realised how far I’d strayed from the things that make up who I am, and began to address the battles that have long needed resolving. The first is ‘Run’: Freedom vs. Duty. From family and community to loyalty and expectations, this song captures the beauty and the complexity of that internal conflict.
Why we love it? Conceptual alternative R’n’B at its finest. A true master of performance shines through in ‘RUN‘. The vocals are beautiful and truly the star of the show, tender when they need to be, and powerful when the dynamic changes on the powerful chorus – give KWAYE their props immediately. (Lloyd Best)
FFO: Solange, Janelle Monae, Roman Gianarthur
Who? Kiwi Jr.
What? Cooler Returns
Where? Toronto, Canada
What the PR say: there’s a quiet genius to be found in Kiwi Jr.’s sardonic approach to their subject matter, and you’ll hear them zero in on stories covering everything from small-town conspiracy theorists, to the Glasgow School of Art fires, and political apathy. It’s full of spritely left-hand turns that constantly keep you guessing.
Why we love it: there’s a care-free feel to them that is a blessed relief from the intensity of twenty twenty. Brilliant lyrical couplets like “I am not American/but I feel the beat sometimes/when I run into the screen door“. There’s a trade up on slacker North American rock, with unmistakably Strokes-like dueling guitars and stifled, straightback drums. Tongue firmly wedged in cheek with infectious melody. A sure fire winner.
FFO: Weezer, Pavement, Fountains of Wayne, The Strokes.
Who? Yumi And The Weather
What? ‘The More I Hear The Less I Believe’
What they say? “This song is about people who say one thing, but then it turns out to be a load of crap. Cough, cough, Boris Johnson and most government leaders. ‘You’re gonna have to say inside, but you can go out for things’; statements that don’t make any sense. We heard this recently in lockdown and now it’s happening again. It’s a light joke about people who say meaningless and perhaps hypocritical things. Each verse reflects various people I’ve heard talk rubbish and me just taking the mickey a little bit.”
Why we love it? Bright breezy riffing and elastic basslines, underpinned by a nifty drum machine beat, while witty yet evocative vocals are both catchy and withering, dissecting the hypocritical idiots in charge who have been issuing confusing advice all year. A toe-tapping takedown.(Bill Cummings)
FFO: The Cure, The Beths, Theoretical Girl
What they say? “This song is about growing up and the unwillingness to see the world as it is. As a kid you would fall asleep in the backseat of your family’s car, with that comforting feeling. The night wasn’t scary, it was just…safe. Now, you have to walk home alone with the keys in your fist, looking over your shoulder.”
Why we love it? A wonderful marriage of rippling warm analogue synths and strings that envelop Ellinor Sterner Bonander’s exquisite soaring vocals. Painting vivid and comforting memories of childhood, rocking you gentle off to sleep. This is a majestic cinematic masterclass in pop.(Bill Cummings)
FFO: Kate Bush, Sia, Susan