I’ve had a lot of weeks and that sure was one. Starting with the deadly mosque shooting attack in Quebec, senseless hatred remains a constant in the world, with no end in sight. Sometimes, brief flashes of humanity shine through however, and it’s important to highlight those: Just one week after the fatal attack, more than 150 mosques in the UK held a ‘Visit My Mosque Day’ for non-Muslims to come and experience the religion and culture of Islam. Pretty cool, right?

It goes to show that sometimes the greatest tool in our arsenal in human beings is showing our neighbours love and acceptance. Mosques and Muslims worldwide don’t owe non-Muslims anything, much less condemnation for any extremist attack. But by opening their doors and arms for many to share experience, knowledge, and tolerance, they might just be sending the greatest possible message to anyone wishing to espouse hate or ignorance – something that is come in handy during protests to the Muslim Ban in the US, which has at least temporarily been deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court. Let’s all endeavour to remember that message in these trying times.

Instead of just presenting a ‘Here’s Some Songs We’re Loving This Week’ that no one will give a toss about, here are some inspirational songs that might just carry you through another depressing week on Planet Earth.

Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

South London’s finest, Stormzy, is back with a surprise new single that tackles an issue that grime has had for a while; how to handle success. You’ll find just as many people that call Dizzee Rascal out for ‘selling out’ as there are that love him, and with the revival of the entire scene over the last few years it remains to be seen how mainstream success will treat the current trailblazers like JME, Skepta, and Big Mike himself.

Thankfully, the self-styled ‘Stiff Chocolate’ himself has come back with a banger, as ‘Big For Your Boots‘ directly answers any critics that dare to speak ill of the 23 year-old.

“Gotta keep trophies down at my mum’s bit, man, I’m getting way too big for my shelf // Man, I see bare MCs wanna sideline, but I still got a couple bangers in the pipeline // Man, I’ve got grown men @ing me bullshit, you’re getting way too old for the timeline // You’re getting way too old for a diss.”

Any track that manages to call out the haters while also including the brilliant lyric, “Had a peng ting called Amy telling me to come round hers on a Valerie ting,” is a pretty solid affair, as Wicked Skengman (am I overdoing it with all of his nicknames) and his lightning-quick delivery powers these four minimalistic minutes. That rapid-fire rhythm helps drive home his many points even harder, specifically one to remember in this day and age;

“Try tell me I’m way too big to rebel? Nah, man, you’re never too big to rebel.”

Besides, he looks even cooler in a chicken shop than the Chicken Connoisseur.

Sampha – Under

Tipped as the next potential Mercury Prize winner by The Guardian – but don’t let that put you off – Morden jack-of-all-trades Sampha has released his debut album ‘Process‘, after a short but already-storied career of collaborations and guest spots. Having previously worked with the likes of Kanye, SBTRKT, Jessie Ware and Drake, the man born Sampha Sisay is now launching his own unique brand of neo-soul on the world, with ‘Under‘ the latest release from the debut record.

Misleadingly upbeat in its tempo, it strays from Sampha’s usual more ~gloomy~ nature and offers a refreshingly lucid take on alternative R&B. The crisp, clean trap beat is utilised in the most understated way underneath layers of the 28 year old’s soft, sensitive vocals, with lucid and physically evocative lyrics a mainstay;

“I’m still swimming in those eyes // You made it rain like you own the sky.”

Of course, there’s nods to a more mainstream, PBR&B records – think James Blake producing The Weeknd if he covered a load of FKA twigs songs – but there’s a deep and thorough identity in Sampha’s sound. Maybe it’s the ease in which he sings, or the smoothness of transitions between parts, as reverberated chirps and bleeps echo around his gospel-like vocals. One thing is for sure: If you’re looking for a sure bet for the Mercury Prize, then you can take this Morden boy to the Bank.

Cosima – To Build A House

Another track, another South Londoner – diversity is dead! Regardless of the seemingly-abundant hot bed of talent that lies beneath the Thames, 23 year-old Cosima really takes the biscuit with how much creative brilliance and energy she’s harbouring for herself, especially with new single ‘To Build A House‘.

A heartbreakingly personal letter to her absent Father, the song started as a poem before being transformed into the beautiful form it holds now; a piano-laden soul-searcher that’s as musically simple as it is lyrically complex. It’s devastating in its emotions and may well be the most upsetting thing you’ll hear all year, with this stunning rhyming couplet;

“In the end I let the windows get dirty, I couldn’t stand to see your absence through the glass // And in the end I learned to sleep on, so tired to giving space to shadows of the past.”

What’s more the Sade-like vocals were recorded in just one take – proof that you can’t replicate true emotion, something that an artist like Cosima makes abundantly clear on tear-jerking tracks like these. It’s pop in its purest form, soul at its most classic, and music at its absolute finest.

Findlay – Electric Bones

Having been releasing singles here and there since 2012, Mancunian Natalie Findlay is finally preparing for the release of her debut album ‘Forgotten Pleasures‘, and album opener ‘Electric Bones‘ is as brash and bold of a statement of intent as possible.

Talk of moon chasing and satellite racing litter this fantastical glam-rock stomper from start to finish, as Findlay claims, “I’m just a girl with a microphone“. While such pessimism might be misguided, there’s also none of the hefty guitar rock that has filled some of her previous releases. ‘Electric Bones‘ is a more subtle affair, with bass-driven, four-to-the-floor stomping a concurrent theme throughout.

The juxtaposition of the Kills-esque glam-rock and her Marina-style falsetto vocals in the chorus make for an audibly thrilling orchestra of sound, and the veracity with which the singer spits her lines is akin to a cat scratching away at a new toy.

Loose Buttons – Between Brick Walls

In these troubled times of hate, violence, bigotry, and misrepresentation, the last thing we really need is more white guys making indie music. You know the type; four white dudes with varying lengths of hair, hailing from New York City, guitars slung around their necks with about as much enthusiasm as somebody about to receive a colonic irrigation, claiming to have something to say while simultaneously saying nothing at all.

With that in mind, NYC indie four-piece Loose Buttons are here to smash any pre-conceived notions you might have about the state of indie rock with new release ‘Between Brick Walls‘, taken from upcoming EP ‘Sundays‘ (we’ve had a listen, and it’s excellent). Frontman Eric Nizgretsky channels a young (and much less greasy) Alex Turner through his effortlessly cool crooning over a trainwreck relationship, while the guitars and bass compliment each other so much that it’s hard to believe it’s not Messrs Valensi, Fraiture, and Hammond Jr. on six-string duty.

Much like fellow-NYC Strokes-alikes Skaters, the band’s knack for dynamic variance helps when it comes to crafting those anthemic singalongs that define sweaty basement gigs and warehouse parties for generations; Distorted solos sweep in and out of simple melodic refrains while the rhythm section blisters through the song with punk-rock romanticism. Perfect for any given Sunday.

YURT – Alligator

Seattle, Washington. So much to answer for. A city so rich in musical heritage that doesn’t seem to suffer from the same disease that places like Manchester do, where every new band tries to sound like the legendary acts from twenty years ago. Instead, the Pacific Northwest is managing to churn out great new sounds on an almost-daily basis, and self-styled bedroom-pop duo Yurt are worthy additions to that list.

After self-releasing their debut EP ‘I’m Gonna YURT‘ (my favourite EP title of all time), the pair – comprised of Marlo Kapser (vocals, guitars, keys) and Olivia Kesterson (drums) – have conquered the market of DIY indie pop with ‘Alligator‘, a track that evokes memories of early Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls while still retaining a freshness and modern-day relevance. Perhaps it’s the crackles in the recording, or the fragility of its minimal instrumentation, but YURT feel like an authentically minimal and utilitarian band, with just a hint of guitar rock and no real chorus.

You get the impression that these two actually do live the slacker rock lifestyle, as the song is more built around noodly riffs rather than any quintessential hook. Such tactics might seem like a big risk to take in your fledgling years as a band, but Yurt’s sweet and hazy sound is perhaps best when you don’t overthink it, and simply enjoy it.

Future Islands – Ran

Ran‘ sees Baltimore trio at perhaps their most introspective yet, and stands up as one of the band’s finest ever songs. Singer Samuel Herring’s distinctive voice recalls great synthpop singers of the ’80s (particularly Curt Smith), while the musical side of things seems to combine The Killers’ ‘Human‘ with the ‘Stranger Things‘ soundtrack. Quite the winning combination.

The introversion continues within the lyrics, as themes of longing and regret seem to plague Herring’s mind.

“What’s a song without you, when every song I write is about you? // When I can’t hold myself without you, and I can’t change the day I found you.”

Heartfelt lyrics and all, ‘Ran”s greatest strength might actually be the driving synths and rapid disco drumbeat that soundtrack that sense of long-lost love. Future Islands are a great example of an act that really exemplify the principle of their whole being greater than the sum of their parts. When all three individual members (Herring, guitarist William Cashion, and keyboard man Gerrit Welmers) gel, they go together seamlessly. It’s a quality they share with many great electronic acts like New Order, Depeche Mode, and Erasure; Herring’s powerful vocals are amplified when added over the top of Welmers’ haunting synths, while Cashion’s guitar and bass work is often the cherry on top of their pop cake. Grab a slice, won’t you?

In all seriousness, if shit’s got you down then memes, Facebook shares, and petitions aren’t enough. Actions speak louder than words, and I’ve said a lot of bloody words here, so make sure that the actions are as plentiful. As the world races itself to the finishing line of existence by seeing who can fuck up the furthest, your civil liberties and basic fucking human rights are going to be violated, torn up, and pissed on. Here is a list of organisations (h/t Jezabel) that are fighting and doing vital work to ensure that citizens of our planet are treated fairly, legally, democratically, and humanely. If you are able to, please donate whatever you can afford. If you’re unable to, then please try to spread the word. A lot of those organisations operate internationally, or deal with affairs that will greatly affect international policies for years to come – the time for complacency is over, the time for activism is right now.

Good luck, enjoy these perhaps-insignificant mere moments of pop, rock, and pop-rock brilliance and I’ll see you next week.

About The Author

Mark Riley

Always pick the Fire starter-Pokemon.