Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore some of the individual MP3s that have landed in our inbox over the previous few weeks. As usual, we’ve had an absolute flood of submissions, and it’s been an absolute pleasure picking some of the finest tracks from the material in hand. There’s a rock core, as expected, but in the usual Singles Bar tradition, we’ve tried to mix that with a few other interesting bits in the hope that there’ll be something to entertain a lot of our supporters. Whatever your tastes, hopefully you’ll find something new to enjoy.
Boston’s Stop Calling Me Frank party like it’s 1980 all over again on ‘Olly Oxen Free’, a hard edged power pop banger that draws influence from a very retro sound. The guitars chime from the outset, never letting up throughout as they set the tone for a melodic post punk rocker, but more impressive is the way the band inject their retro sound with a wheezing sax, rousing gang vocals and a sharp lead guitar. It all comes together brilliantly, sounding like a treat from the rock archives, despite being brand new for 2023.
Staying with a slightly retro feel, Swedish singer-songwriter Emil Johansson channels a whole world of jangling guitars and the indie sounds of the early noughties on ‘Idiot’, his first single for Gaphals Records. The music is tight, and the core melody of the chorus is so infectious, Johansson is able to make the listener forget that the track’s lyrics are actually in Swedish. There’s such a familiar feel to this track, it’s almost impossible not to like it from first listen.
Not thinking small, ‘The Seed’ from Madrid’s Greengoat clocks in at almost seven and a half minutes, but there’s barely a second of that drawn out playing time that feels wasted. It begins with a slow groove, and some fine desert rock begins to map out the musical journey, before the band take their riffs into much heavier places, adding a swampy, almost sludge infused riff. Taking time to hammer that into people’s ears, they show a great command of their musical weight, but the single’s best moments come during lighter verses where Ivan’s post-grunge vocal and eastern inspired melodies really bring out the classic stoner elements of the band’s sound. With the heavy elements eventually tempered by more of a groove, drummer Ruth shows how much weight she brings to the Greengoat sound, and as the last notes fade, you’ll certainly feel like they’ve taken you on a fairly intense trip. It’s not going to be a massive radio favourite, obviously, but fans of the style will certainly discover something special here.
Earlier in ’23, The Holy Ghost shared ‘Brownshirt Trojan’, the first single from their upcoming album ‘Ignore Alien Orders’. They’re back with a second taste of new material, and ‘Keep Walking/Keep Rising’ makes the band sound better than ever. The track begins with an uncharacteristic, melodic riff that draws heavily from the 60s, and even the first verse comes with a lighter guitar-pop touch that’s closer to US bands of yesteryear than the usual Holy Ghost fare. When the chorus hits, though, fans will recognise the layered distortion and overdriven guitars, and feel very much at ease with the Bob Mould and Lou Barlow inspired riffs, whilst a semi-distorted vocal clings on to a love of 90s alternative sounds. With an equal mix of melody and bluster, this is the kind of track that deserves to widen The Holy Ghost’s audience.
Listeners of a heavier persuasion will find some enjoyment from the intense riffs brought by Carry The Torch on their current single ‘El Nino’. Blending classic thrash sounds with hardcore breakdowns and melodic death metal growls, they run the full gamut of intensity within this four minute blast. The drums are particularly immense, holding down a speed driven groove throughout, and the guitar work – whether attacking rhythms at speed, or dropping in with a haunting lead break – is incredibly sharp. The band makes no concession to converting anyone not already into their brand of heaviness, of course, but what they do, they do with absolute precision and an impressive power.
Opening with a pulsing bass, flowing piano and wordless vocals, ‘Yellow Rose’ by Para Lia instantly promises something with an almost cinematic feel. It never turns out that way, at least not in the truest sense, but once the music gains traction, their current single still brings plenty of entertainment. The marriage of chiming guitars and deep vocals shares a big love for a 90s alternative mood, and floating synths suggest there’s always something lighter within the band’s sound trying to escape. A couple of listens unveils a lovely melody that’s, perhaps, never far away from a Tindersticks classic, and Rene Methner’s voice really envelops the music in a way that’s completely natural. It’s more of a slow burner than an instant hit, but with the late arrival of a few harmonies and the introductory piano returning to fill a gorgeous instrumental break, this becomes one of the smarter indie/rock tunes of 2023.
With a smooth blend of spacious music and introspective lyrics, ‘Slow Motion’ by Maggie Cubillos adds a pop-ish flair to a classic singer-songwriter mood. Her desire to share something with a personal feel is more than clear from somewhere around the end of the first verse, and the general tone of the track reawakens welcome memories of material by Chantal Kreviazuk. Maggie’s natural voice has a soulful edge and its that which really brings her lyrics to life. Her slightly forlorn tones make the melody sound big, despite it often being rather laid back, and the arrangement has a few very nice touches. In particular, the combo of voice and piano during the first verse suggests a real maturity for such a young talent, and the later presence of chorus harmonies ensures the number has a big heart. Cubillos isn’t far into her career, but this suggests she’s capable of delivering more great material in future.
Last up, the return of a favourite band. In the 90s, Mustard Plug were an integral part of the third wave of ska in the US. Their third album ‘Evildoers Beware’ is a genre classic, and although the band had their thunder stolen by Less Than Jake in terms of sales and popularity, their abilities to deliver a rousing hook and construct a massive riff for a tight brass section were second to none. They’re gearing up to release their eighth album in September, and if this single is any indication of things to come, fans are in for a treat. It mightn’t be as instantly catchy as the likes of ‘You’, ‘Mendoza’ or ‘Box’ (for example), but at its loudest end, ‘Fall Apart’ works some melodic punk grooves powered by a ringing guitar, and as such, is comparable to a lot of other great US punk sounds. At other times, some user-friendly ska fills a mid-tempo verse with ease, setting up a typical Mustard Plug contrast that really works. With the help of an unmistakable vocal, fans will certainly recognise the signature sound a mile off, but it’s via the chorus the magic really happens. With a combination of rousing melody and semi punchy horns, the track takes an uplifting turn that’s melodic yet tough. Taking time to showcase a well played lead bass along the way, it’s a rather busy workout, but it’s one that definitely captures the band’s time-honoured mix of melody and grit.