Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore the various mp3s and individual tracks that have landed in our inbox over the previous couple of weeks. This time around, singer songwriter’s dominate, making up five of our eight picks – but with that, obviously, comes the variety that, hopefully. makes the SB interesting. It’s time to say hello to Leon Frear – a performer with a brillianty retro style and also introduce Mighty One, a new indie pop band. We’re also welcoming back the brilliant Swimming Bell, and sharing a couple of rockier tunes along the way…
Swimming Bell’s previous single ‘Take It Easy’ was a perfect blend of country, pop and folk which, with the help of some smooth harmonies, sounded like the ultimate throwback to the Laurel Canyon scene in 1970. This single shares similar feelings of warmth and an easy melody, further showing the performer’s natural talent. Perhaps more impressive is how way they’ve made ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ – a half forgotten number by Curtiss Muldoon – sound like a Swimming Bell original, with the help of some great, laid back bass work, more of those gorgeous harmonies and a very retro sounding lead guitar break. There’s something very satisfying about Swimming Bell’s retro sound, and with this track, one listen is all that’s needed for the listener to feel fully absorbed.
With a punchy bassline and a semi-floaty vocal, the debut single from indie pop duo Mighty One serves up something with an instant feel-good factor. There mightn’t be anything strikingly new about the overall sound, but ‘Wake The Dead’ is a tautly played number that really sells a great melody throughout. Emma Kingston’s vocal latches onto the kind of indie-centric melody that could’ve sprung from decades past, but the way she takes that and twists it into something huge really suggests a talent destined for greater things, whilst the faint traces of 80s synth goth lurking in the back of a great tune add a retro edge that lifts an already enjoyable sound. Mighty One are definitely worth keeping a look out for in 2024.
Loaded with a 70s rock riff and a huge vocal, Rhea’s ‘Creeping Through My Head’ makes an almost instant impression, but the single is a cut above a lot of other rock tracks. Giving a semi-predictable blues rock groove a massive lift, the vocals have plenty of spirit, and the way the lead is joined by almost pop-ish harmonies sets up a great yin/yang between genuine grit and a sugary centre. With a massively wah-wahed guitar solo, a repetitive hook, and a Zeppelin-esque riff bringing a huge climax, it’s a great track that values tightness over grandiosity.
A preview of things to come, Leon Frear’s debut single ‘Secret Second Moon’ is a brilliant combination of 60s rock, 90s fuzz and big attitude. The music leans heavily on a melodic rockabilly style, allowing a huge sounding guitar to lay down chunky chords throughout, whilst a jazzier tone applied to the lead brings a retro feel of a very different kind. The track has a faint echo of early Tom Waits, and an equally faint nod to the slacker jazz of Morphine, but the heavier use of guitar ensures this never feels like an easy copy of either. Frear’s voice, meanwhile, has the presence of a world weary gumshoe from an old noir film; a man slightly brow beaten, but determined to rise above the world’s grim realities. It’s a perfect stance for the job in hand, and in turn, ‘Secret Second Moon’ is a perfect introduction to a new talent.
Taking a bluesy vocal and placing it against a hard edged riff, Hannah Wicklund’s ‘Hell In The Hallway’ blends a timeless blues rock vibe with a radio friendly crunch. Whilst the single doesn’t break new musical ground for the style, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the performer’s huge voice, and the way the arrangement uses huge, haunting wails to fill out its punchy chorus. This is the sound of a “classic rock” star on the rise, and a tune that deserves wider attention.
With its mix of solid rhythms and fuzzy guitars, ‘Yarem Yarem’ by The Magic Bus instantly hits upon a classic retro rock/stoner rock style, but the band make something familiar feel more exotic with the help of a Greek lyric, delivered with an enthusiastic tone. Across two and a half minutes, the single relies on a repetitive groove for a hook, but this is something it actually achieves very easily. The Magic Bus have a knack with a riff which is more than clear, but when played back loudly, this track sounds even better.
At the core of ‘The Bitter End’, Drew Davies shares a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a more melodic tune from the Queens of The Stone Age catalogue, but the Scottish singer songwriter takes a familiar influence somewhere different. The stoner-ish heart is tempered by some strong layers of goth pop coming through an effective vocal and an old style synth, but there’s also a nod to classic sounding melodic metal via a very busy lead guitar. It’s an interesting mix, but thanks to a big chorus melody, the elements fit together seamlessly, and Drew’s emotive vocal is in a strong position to share a very personal lyric throughout. Overall, it has the potential to be considered one of his very best tunes.
With a strong narrative drive and a huge Americana sound, ‘Double Vision’ by Mary McGuinness is the perfect follow up to her ‘Once In A Blue Moon’. With a warm bass and gently applied banjo, it advertises its country roots at the outset, but moving its way through a honeyed ballad, the traces of folk and adult pop bleed through in a much bigger way that calls back to classic Nanci Griffith, whilst McGuinness shows off a very confident voice. Lyrically, the single has a reflective mood that suits the music in hand, and by the time it reaches a harmony filled coda, it sounds like a genre classic.
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