Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore some of the individual mp3s that have appeared in our inbox over the past few weeks. With January 2024 now firmly underway, the submissions have really taken off, and we could have filled this column three times over. That, of course, just promises more great stuff for the coming weeks! This time around, we bring you a couple of great singer songwriters, some big rock with a commercial hook, some very light pop, and even a little country courtesy of an already familiar face. As always, we hope you find something to enjoy…
Nick Hudson’s ‘For My Silence’ doesn’t care for being upbeat. With this single, the Brighton singer-songwriter aims to make his audience stop and think. The song, written against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, approaches the subjects of fear, uncertainty and emotional fragility head on. Using a metaphor of how a child still exists within the adult, the touching lyric drops massive lyrical jolts throughout, with mentions of “notes from fallen angels” and the simile of personal injury taking the place of tattoos being especially striking. For those not into lyrics, the music is equally impressive, with Hudson contrasting folk pop acoustic guitar sounds with a flowing piano worthy of Tori Amos, before layers of backing vocals weave a choir like grandness. An amazing track.
In a shift from her previous single – the deep and almost cosmic ‘Battlefield’ – Australian singer-songwriter Helen Townsend returns to a more commercial style on the brilliant ‘Melbourne Streets’. A tale of rain and time spent writing songs in the grey suburbs, a sometimes downbeat lyric is contrasted by a warm, feel-good country melody throughout. Against acoustic guitar strums, soft drums lay down a gentle melody, and a strong bassline holds everything together. With crying steels occasionally bursting through, the country vibes are strengthened against a very strong lead vocal, but the presence of The McCrary Sisters on harmony vocals lifts a good track to unquestionable greatness. Sometimes sounding like a tune that would have suited Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, ‘Melbourne Streets’ is Helen’s finest single to date.
Dundee based duo Sean Findlay & Adam Smith shared some enjoyable stripped down acoustic tunes in 2023, but they’ve kicked off ’24 with one of their best tunes to date. ‘Black Limo’ weaves heavy acoustic sounds around a solid bassline, setting up a musical base with that almost seems to share a stripped down blues-rock vibe. Over a great riff, Findlay adds a moody, very live sounding vocal that’s very sympathetic to the surprisingly muscular melody, whilst Smith adds a country fiddle, giving the track an old style Americana heart. The contrast of the two very different styles works incredibly naturally, sharing big melodies from both performers. Big, but never showy, it’s the kind of track that doesn’t necessarily care for an immediate commercial impact, but will certainly catch the ear of those who like things with a rootsy heart.
Driven by a thundering bassline and stomping groove, there’s something incredibly retro about the verses of ‘Off My Chest’ by rock musician Gab De La Vega. However, his sharp vocal delivery adds a far more contemporary feel to the bulk of the track, and when exploding into a huge melodic rock chorus with a slight alternative undercurrent, the song has a more distinctive feel of its own. By the time you’ve heard the chorus a couple of times, it’ll have all the makings of a favourite thanks to a big melody and confident vocal, and with a final twist to unleash a massive riff that owes more to Rocket From The Crypt than anything else the prior three minutes suggested, this ends very much on a high note, with the potential to leave everyone wanting more.
The ska takes something of a backseat during the current single from ska punk band Rundown Kreeps. What ‘Big Bear’ ultimately gives fans, though, is a cracking slice of melodic punk. The drawn out vocal lines aren’t the most energy driven, but they’re a great compliment to a chunky guitar melody which works hard to keep everything buoyant throughout. Aided by a musical melody that never feels too far removed from classic Ataris fare, there’s a timeless feel to the track, and with a couple of ska chords dropping in along the way, it’s clear that the Kreeps ska core isn’t always so far away. Mastered by Less Than Jake’s Roger Lima, ‘Big Bear’ has a great sound, proving that well produced melodic punk still has a strong hold on the alternative music scene long after its 90s peak.
There’s something pleasingly old fashioned at the heart of Xephyr’s ‘The Disparation’. Perhaps it’s the verse’s nod to old Motorhead tunes via a rousing tempo; perhaps its the twin lead guitar giving an affectionate nod to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; it might even be the occasional waves of classic hard rock that cut through a couple of the more sedate riffs. Xephyr are far from a tired old throwback, though. This single has a more modern vocal, with clean and melodic edges at first, and a gruff presence closer to hardcore during its darker interlude, setting up a great contrast. Despite their old school intents, a few of the riffs are also lifted by a sharp, modern production that gives a rousing tune a decent send off. With the aid of a booming, melodic chorus hook, this is the kind of single that shows the Canadian band are in possession of some serious musical muscle.
‘Soft’, the debut from French vocalist Line Beauclair is a minimalist gem. Taking gently plucked guitar melodies and a light piano melody, the tune slowly unfolds to unveil a melody that combines light pop with an almost folk-ish undercurrent. With the later addition of a few bass notes and a cinematic drum sound, the tune eventually swells into something a little broader, but it’s Beauclair’s vocals which remain the main focus throughout. Her performance is so airy that some lyrics are in danger of disappearing completely, but the fragility in her delivery is such, that when she occasionally hits upon a few stronger notes, the pop sounds take on a bigger appeal. With hints of Priscilla Ahn, the tune aims more for atmospheric that “instant hit”, but there’s enough here to suggest the performer will share more interesting things in the future.
With a retro sounding, muted guitar and a world of echo employed during its intro, you could be forgiven for thinking that Judith Hill’s ‘Flame’ might be a slice of alt/cosmic country, but the track quickly shifts gears to uncover something much grander. Atop a stomping beat, bluesy guitars weave a solid riff, still clinging on to a great echoing sound, and then Hill appears with a fantastic vocal. Armed with a great melody, she unveils a blend of blues and soul with a pinch of rock that falls somewhere between a sedate Sass Jordan and The Bellrays in a quiet moment. During the verse, her confident voice goes head to head with a moody guitar, with each getting equal space in a classic sounding arrangement, and then, via something a little funkier, the assembled musicians lose themselves in something even rockier. Hill shows star quality throughout, but on this single’s louder moments, she conveys the huge musical heart of a few late 60s soul greats. The production may be contemporary, but scratch beneath the surface, and ‘Flame’ is a track with a very old soul…and a potentially timeless sense of style.