Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore the various individual mp3s that have landed in our inbox over the previous few weeks. This time around, we bring you a very eclectic selection – and what we think might just be one of best SB features to date. We’ve got cosmic country; we’ve got dreampop; there’s time for a slab of indie pop with a ridiculously infectious chorus, and even a bit of bluegrass. Strap yourselves in for the ride – and, as always, if you’ve enjoyed anything here, please drop by and let us know!
In September 2023, Helen Townsend released ‘Is This Love?’, a radio friendly single that was inoffensive and had a jaunty quality, but wouldn’t necessarily connect with anyone who didn’t enjoy country infused pop. This follow up is superior on every level. There’s still a country core, but it wisely does away with the old style line dancing qualities, and instead opts for a moody, almost cosmic feel. There’s even a deep spookiness to the music that would’ve been ideal for Mark Lanegan. The way the echoing guitars weave in and out of the darker melody very much leans upon more of an alternative feel, but Townsend’s clear vocal delivery ensures everything comes with a friendly core. It isn’t necessary going to be an immediate hit; nor is the track here to provide an uplifting mood, but with a perfect balance of alt-country vibes and melancholy melodies, it provides a huge step forward for Helen, putting her squarely among singer-songwriters on the rise.
Humm are a contemporary folk duo whose third single ‘Danced Alone’ defies time. It has a crisp, modern production value, but the track’s stripped down nature and broad melodies could easily have been transported from the late 60s. The single’s heavily strummed acoustic guitar might not be flashy, but it’s used very effectively for a vocal that shifts effortlessly between an unsure mumble conveying a genuine vulnerability, to a high trill which draws a massive influence from a trad folk past. Like the Helen Townsend track, a little time might be required before its true magic is revealed, but this still young act have a massive amount of potential.
The Dead South’s fourth album, ‘Chains & Snakes’ isn’t out until February ’24, but the cult band have already released a taste of what’s to come via the single ‘Tiny Wooden Box’. An energy driven piece, the single blends alt-country influences with a hefty amount of bluegrass. With a relentless banjo jostling against acoustic guitars and a melodic vocal arrangement, the track definitely has one foot within Americana’s traditional sounds, but a dramatic shift from fast rhythms into a mid section that appears to tip the hat to old Ennio Morricone scores brings something even more enjoyable…and a little unexpected.
‘All You Want Is More’ by Dundee rockers Desert Kites goes even deeper into a 90s sound than any of their previous tunes. For the final single used to promote their EP of the same name, they sound almost nothing like their former selves, since the track opens with a riff that owes far more to all things grungy. Armed with an old Silverchair groove put through an early Smashing Pumpkins filter, it’s all much heavier than expected, and that will be enough for some listeners to love it. As before, though, anything familiar is given the duo’s own unique twist and, in this case, that comes via a very British sounding lead vocal. In many ways, the riff is king here, and although the single isn’t as catchy as the band’s earlier ‘Something Dark’ – their finest four minutes – it’s good to hear them being unafraid to try something different.
The Noise Who Runs is a musical project helmed by Ian Pickering, best known as lyricist for Sneaker Pimps. Joining Ian is French-Brazilian musician Felipe Goes, and between them, the duo share some big sounding synth pop on ‘Tune Out, Turn Off, Tune In’. The track follows a run of strong singles throughout 2023, but in many ways, this is their most direct and hook-laden track yet. Armed with a mid tempo, the Noise weave heavy beats and wavering electronic sounds that are so much more muscular than many similar acts’ throwbacks, and when loaded by Pickering’s deliberately dour vocal, the single takes on a huge moodiness that’s almost unsettling. Given time to adjust, though, it’s the kind of track that really works; its combination of repetitious chorus and underlying electronic pulse delivers a big musical thrill that outshines any off-kilter melodies.
Allegedly on a mission to “queer up Britpop”, casablanca shares some superb melodies on their current single ‘Cold’. From the outset, the track shares a superb guitar sound with a strong influence from 90s and 00s indie, but casablanca takes that familiar sound and steers it further towards a brilliantly strong adult pop-rock, dropping an echoing lead guitar over heavily strummed acoustic elements and strident basslines. Best of all, though, is the way the melodic verse eventually throws itself head first into a chorus absolutely loaded with “na na”s, creating the perfect pop hook for the slightly filtered lead vocal. It’s the kind of single that can be loved from the first listen.
Throughout 2023, Lilac Haze has released a few enjoyable singles, but ‘My Dreamworld’ takes the alternative singer-songwriter forward with a seismic leap. Her voice soars effortlessly above a world of drum loops, echoing guitar and a shimmering blanket of sound that’s very much indebted to the 4AD label, and when doing so, sounds almost tactile in its fragility. To stop the dreampop being lighter than air, the other-worldly elements are contrasted by some brilliant bass work bringing an indie muscle, but never drawing too much away from the hazy dream-like state. This would create the perfect track for the genre, but the fact that it’s a co-write with the legendary Julianne Regan makes it even better.
How much fun can you pack into just sixty seconds? In the hands of Liar Thief Bandit, it turns out to be quite a lot. The Swedish band’s ‘The Devil’s In The Details’ immediately kicks off with a huge garage rock riff, applies a hard edged vocal and whips up a musical storm that falls somewhere between The Hellacopters, the more melodic bits of The Hives and a stomping Aussie rock band. By somewhere around the fifteen second mark, it begins to sound like an absolute belter. They’ve even found time to wedge in a melodic chorus hook and a sweaty lead guitar break before knocking the tune on the head after an entire minute. It might only be a third of the length of a conventional hard rock/garage rock tune, but it seems strangely fully formed. That’s talent!