The holiday season seems to be in full swing around the world now, and it’s also a time when many bands release new music in the hop of hitting the Christmas Number One spot. That doesn’t seem as important as it once was, but at least it means we have plenty to sift through for our playlist. Speaking of which!

Unsurprisingly we start this week in Sweden with Spilling by Julia Jonas. It’s hard to not like a track that features an ocarina, but this self-produced track also features an upright piano with dampened strings and found sounds sourced from the Swedish woods. Combining that with traditional instruments and Jonas’ smooth vocal performance, the track is slow, rhythmic and feels like the melodic summation of a religious rite, as much as a piece of soothing, mellow pop. The track – which is a follow-up to her 2015 KaraWait EP – can be found on Spotify.

Staying with Swedish artists, we move on to Broken Arrow by Francis Novotny. It’s an odd but addictive number – with Middle Eastern nuances flowing over a dirty percussive rhythm, which sees the London based, Gothenburg native get philosophical – he says the ‘broken arrow’ he refers to in the song is “a metaphor for someone who is attacking you, but you’re too strong to let the person get to you. An arrow is a weapon, but you can’t do much with a broken one.” As solid as the song is, it’s Novotny’s voice that is the star of the track, sweeping majestically through the piece with a timbre that can be compared to Plan B or Justin Timberlake.

Steph Wells aka SUMif has made another quick return to the blog, with us having previously featured tracks  IDW and Drifting. She serves up another treat with Pretty Cage – it’s a more upbeat track in terms of tempo than the previous releases, and has a definite feel good sound to it.  Pretty Cage will be the title track on SUMif’s debut EP, due out January 3rd. Wells says the song is about feeling trapped in a situation that appears perfect from an outsider’s perspective, and that’s something that the track mirrors flawlessly – the pop sheen of the production and sweet vocals serve to reinforce the complex topics contained in the lyrics.

It’s Happening is the third single from mystery band Dirty Nice. It’s totally infectious; from the initial funky intro to the swoozy and woozy organ sounds, right through to the disco-infused bass guitar. There’s so much going on in this track it’s hard to keep up – the addictive and repetitive hooks of Daft Punk, the spacey synths of Air and the low-key dance rhythms of Hot Chip. It’s not derivative though, it’s more that It’s Happening has managed that difficult trick of sounding fresh yet also feeling like something you’ve been listening to for years.

That Gum U Like confound the stereotypes of what we expect from Brazilian bands on Killer – with a sound that evokes images of colder climes – bands like Covenant or The xx echo through each note as the track teases strands from genres as diverse as acid house, dark electro and shoegaze. The whole arrangement is underpinned by Andressa D’s vocals – unique in their ability to sound like Elizabeth Frazer and Karin Dreijer simultaneously! It’s certainly what gives their music an extra layer of slightly unsettling dreamy blissed-out pop. The track will feature on their upcoming EP. We’ve had a chance to hear it and the other three tracks are similarly ingenious marvels.

A lot closer to home, next up is Manchester band Shy Luv and their track Lungs, which comes from the EP of the same name. It’s a bright synthpop number, with a flavour of early Hurts mixed in with the quiet emotional storms associated with Empathy Test. Shy Luv have a bit of a boy band vibe about them, coming off like an electronic Take That, singing about relatable feelings in snappy lyrics – about wanting to retract an open offer of love to your object of desire who’s feelings aren’t openly reciprocated – made soothing and palatable by the honeyed vocals. Check out the video and EP – you won’t regret it!

Canada’s Dear Criminals’ Yet Not The End sounds tailor-made for a Francophone noir-ish cop drama (in fact it’s for the distinctly non cop but ever so dark TV series, Fatale-Station) – it’s breathy female vocals sparring with the more sultry male singing as if some kind of battle of musical wits. The trip-hop imbued arrangement undulates between a minimal, stark simplicity and a more effusive string-filled orchestral melancholia. For a track that feels so gossamer light, there’s an immediacy and familiarity to the track – for me it’s down to the Gainsbourg / Birkin vibe of the song.

Sweden’s Bonander hits a sweet point between mysticism and hard reality with The Oracle. Musically the song lives in a dream world between the bittersweet pop of Frida Sundemo and the dark shamanic sounds of Myrkur – brooding, breathing and a bit dangerous. The track has an imperiously glacial flow to it, Ellinor Sterner’s voice lending it an air of Kate Bush’s left field beauty. Underneath the ethereal inkiness is a serious point –  they band regard The Oracle as “a call out of the ‘masked racism’ that’s becoming increasingly prevalent” in Western societies.

Shpongle’s particular brand of eccentric psychedelic dance music has been a cult favourite for some time now, and for the initiated I Woke Up As A Shlummutz will be a welcome addition to his catalogue of ambient electronic sounds. Working with Raja Ram, the piece just overflows with positivity and good vibes, it’s melange of different musical cultures coalescing around a mellow beat and chilled reverie. The track will feature on the 6th Sphongle album Codex VI which is due out next January.

Last up this week is another returnee – this time it’s American duo Kuzo with Mirage, and this track really shows the duo are fine-tuning their own unique sound – an infectious blend of pop sensibility and downtempo melancholia that manages to be both catchy and slightly plaintive. It’s music to let sad people dance, reminisce and ultimately feel a bit happier in themselves. Play this to someone who is feeling a bit down, it’s like getting a musical hug!

That’s it for this week, hope you liked some of what you heard and there’ll be another ten treats next week! Until then, goodbye!