Come On, Come In: Big Hits From The Real Gone Singles Bar, Year One

In May 2023, Real Gone ran a column highlighting some of the best digital singles that had come our way. We’d always shied away from singles, preferring instead to concentrate on detailed album and EP reviews, but too much good music was falling by the wayside. The column was an experiment, of sorts: it was a departure from what had gone before, but still came with the same enthusiasm. Would people embrace this new feature? Would “quick takes” weaken the Real Gone brand?

It turns out that our regulars loved it, and it immediately brought more new people on board. Something that began as an experiment quickly looked like something that might be a column filler every few weeks, but the singles kept coming and the interest grew. Almost immediately, it was clear that the Singles Bar would be a weekly affair… Befor long, we were getting regular emails from bands asking specifically for a place at the Bar, so it looked like the SB could run indefinitely!

We’ve just celebrated a full year of visits to the Real Gone Singles Bar, and in that time, we’ve featured over four hundred new tracks from over four hundred artists. Some have even been featured more than once. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the musicians, labels and PR people for their ongoing support – the Singles Bar has clicked with everyone – but also mark the first anniversary with a look back at some of our favourite tracks that have been featured over the last fifty two weeks. We’ve discovered some favourites along the way – maybe you discovered a new favourite too.


A stabbing piano riff and a jaunty rhythm helps Shannon Smith to strike retro pop gold on his debut single ‘Dance The Night Away (Do Do Do Do)’. Unashamedly the stuff of an AM radio past, the track shares a familiar melody throughout (it comes quite close to ‘Just One Look’ by Iain Matthews in places, but recycles it with love), whilst the addition of old style organ and chirpy brass lines really bring Smith’s take on a classic pop sound to life. With a jazzy interlude that would make Billy Joel raise a smile and a summery pop vibe that captures the spirit of Mick Terry’s best tunes, this is a single that’s not to be missed.

Scottish singer songwriter Roisin McCarney has released some great songs, but ‘Villian’, a high energy pop-rock number, shows off her obvious talents in a really direct way. The muted guitars owe a lot to retro AOR tunes, but the general upbeat nature of the melody sounds like a rockier version of something by Taylor Swift circa her ‘Red’ album. Musically, it might not have much in common with McCarney’s previous single ‘Dancing With The Devil’, but her big, enthusiastic vocal is unmistakable and her ability to sell a great hook is very clear. Without a doubt, this is one of the best single tracks of ’23.

The Shang Hi Los released one of the best albums of 2023, and returned with an insanely catchy slice of power pop in the early part of 2024. ‘Op-Operator’ flaunts Cars-esque handclaps and keys against a muted guitar that borrows heavily from other new wave and power pop sounds from the early 80s. With a familiar melody in place, Dan Kopko adds a slightly scratchy vocal which is offset by a superb melody from Jen D’Angora. Between them, they create something that’s perfect for their style. Better still, there’s an incessant hook that runs throughout the number. The chorus line works the harmonies perfectly, and its stuttering lyric allows for an earworm that provides a cheeky twist on a tried and tested, wordless “bah-bah”. If you liked the Shangs before, you’ll love this. If you’ve missed the band previously, you’ll love this. It’s their best tune to date – and they likely know it.

With a glam influenced stomp meeting with a bright pop vocal, ‘What Kinda Love’ by Sohodolls has a great crossover sound. The general mood conveyed on this single might remind a few listeners of tracks like Goldfrapp’s classic ‘Ooh La La’, or even a couple of album cuts from the brilliant Metric, but this is actually catchier than both of those combined. The addition of a few garage rock guitars and an occasional nod to bubblegum pop on an infectious chorus also gives this recording more of its own identity. Between the relatively simple riff and breezy pop vocal, there’s already a great deal here to love, but the injection of a few cheeky “woo”s throughout ensures this is one track that’ll stick in your noggin forever. This screams “hit” from the very first spin.

Roots meets AOR on The Matinee’s timeless sounding ‘Bad Addiction’. Across five minutes, the Vancouver based Americana act awaken the ghosts of Faces ballads and recycle the softer moments of the early Black Crowes catalogue with flawless results. Frontman Matt Layzell sells an aching melody with vocal precision; guitarist Geoff Petrie steps in with a brilliantly retro solo, and it’s clear that both musicians really feel the melody. …And that’s before some very retro keys sound as if the legendary Garth Hudson has stepped in. In so many ways, ‘Bad Addiction’ seems like a song you’ve always known, but that just makes it so much better.

Absolutely loaded with twin guitar harmonies coupled with the kind of vocals that would suit Band of Horses circa 2010, CR & The Nones strike pop-rock perfection on ‘The Long Game’. A number that sometimes sounds like a more American Teenage Fanclub, it isn’t shy in sharing a honey-drenched sound, and the combo of great vocals and the aforementioned dominant guitar creates something that’s absolutely lovely. Although its often more about a great sound than direct hooks, this number shows off a great band on the rise, and for all lovers of guitar driven melodic fare, is a tune not to be missed.

This tune from Dutch duo Light By The Sea has a feel that feels both contemporary and nostalgic. Take a pinch of light 80s goth and a huge dose of 90s pop, add an indie attitude and a great rhythm, and the results on the less than catchily titled ‘A Feather of A Pigeon In The Cave of The Wisdom of God’ almost speak for themselves. The single might not come with a big lyrical hook, but its steady rhythm and blend of atmospheric vocals and light, shimmery guitar work leads to something that’s massively appealing. The way huge bass grooves underscore a world of alternative pop sounds lends just enough muscle for the number not to be pigeonholed as dream pop, yet the slightly ethereal elements are dominant enough for it not to feel like standard indie fare. At times, a great bassline feels just as vital to the end result as Anna Baumann’s vocal, and the way Davy Knobel creates layers of guitar beneath an almost danceable groove adds a vital extra texture. This could just be one of the best Light By The Sea tracks to date.

With its use of steady rhythm and soft piano lines, the intro to Set Feux’s ‘Say It Again’ has hints of both trip hop and dream pop, but this debut single isn’t by any means an easy homage to either genre. Its combo of mid tempo chords and floating vocal quickly share a more mellow vibe, which should be enough to pull in many fans of alt-pop, but with a chord progression that sounds like a vague homage to Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ to boost the chorus, it also comes with a surprisingly old soul. It’s one of those tracks that, ultimately, doesn’t fit easily into any musical space – and is all the better for it. Between an alluring, slightly fey vocal and an unhurried approach to sharing great melodies, this single allows the listener time to reflect, and as such, is something that sounds better with each successive play.

A more modern take on an old country waltz and sometimes reminiscent of a less hazy Cowboy Junkies, ‘Take It Easy’ by Swimming Bell is a track that’s absolutely brimming with warmth. A slightly reverbed guitar cries against a solid bassline setting a simple melody in place for a great musical arrangement, but if anything is set to win over the listener here, it’s a perfect vocal. Dripping with Americana influenced harmonies, the blend of voices is never less than terrific when sharing a wonderfully smooth sound throughout. As singles go, it’s more about a mood than immediate hooks, but a familiar sound and fine melody come together to create something almost timeless.

On their ‘Run Away’ single, Nottingham based rockers Lacey mixed elements of hard rock with a few emo-ish flourishes and a wash of keyboards to create a very contemporary sound that managed to be uplifting, but also tug at the heartstrings at the same time. This follow up, released in the summer of ’23, has a few things in common with the previous track, but really cranks up the commercial elements. With a floaty melody and filtered vocals, their emo side comes across far more, and the resulting pop tinged melody is very radio friendly. Unexpectedly, the huge chorus calls back to some great 80s AOR with a huge and simple hook, and it’s as if the band have channelled that through some late 90s fare for good measure. ‘Middle England’ ranks as not only one of Lacey’s strongest tracks to date but also one of the best singles of the 2023.

It’s been said that if you don’t want your music to get old too quickly, then create something that already has an old heart. That’s a fact that hasn’t escaped Night Beats. ‘Blue’ mixes trip hop beats, echoing vocals, reverbed guitar lines and a lax vocal in a way that’s hard to pin down to a specific time. The track never rushes, it merely lays down a brilliantly smooth groove over six minutes, creating a downtempo piece where the echoes of dreampop collide with 70s soul vibes. It’s easy to imagine something similar coming from the Tru Thoughts label, but just as you think you have the track sussed, it takes a further leap into a blanket of light psychedelia, laying on the dreampop echoes even further. This is absolutely amazing.

Lonely Little Kitch deliver massively overdriven riffs aplenty on ‘Monster’, a high energy romp that revels in its semi-distorted approach. Right from the opening chords, there’s plenty for fans of noisy indie and melodic punk to latch onto, and once the chorus hits with a really hooky round of “ah”s delivered by a clean vocal, the contrast between the rough and the sweet results in an instant classic. As if Metro discovered a wall of sound approach, this is an alternative single that should be heard by everyone.

Sadlands, an indie/punk band from Brooklyn/Queens, aren’t shy in sharing a big, feel good melody on ‘Flowers’. In keeping with their chosen genre’s tropes, the track flaunts a huge chiming guitar sound and a crashy feel that sounds like an old Letters To Cleo track in bigger boots. That’ll be enough alone to win over a lot of ears, but the big draw here comes via the huge dual vocals of Jess Lane and Samantha Campanile. Their voices immediately introduce something bigger than this sort of track would normally need, and somewhere around the end of the first verse, their voices really start to sell a great melody. If you’ve not been won over by the mid point, the band ups the musical stakes by wheeling out the catchiest set of whoahs to grace a guitar driven banger in some time. To hear ‘Flowers’ once is to love it; hear it three or four times, and you might be convinced it’s one of the band’s best tunes.

‘Last Orders’ by Natalie Gray is a retro treat. A single that’s absolutely loaded with wavering, 80s sounding keys pulled from old AOR tunes, occasional soaring guitars and pulsing beats, it immediately uplifts. On top of a busy melody that could easily have been spawned in 1984, Natalie adds a huge, spirited vocal that’s more of the soul and pop persuasion, but the combined elements create something just perfect. With a genuine energy from the arrangement and a knowing sparkle from the featured performer, ‘Last Orders’ might be a most unashamedly 80s tune, but in recapturing the spirit of the Irene Cara and Kenny Loggins soundtrack fillers of yesteryear, it sounds superb. If this doesn’t make you feel good, there’s something wrong with you!

At the end of 2023, singer songwriter Amigo The Devil shared ‘The Cannibal Within’, a banjo driven tune that explored the darker side of bluegrass, country and folk, creating a strange and somewhat sinister listen. This follow up from early ’24 retains the dark vibes, but explores a very different tone. Adopting a slower tempo and an all round gentler feel, ‘The Mechanic’ is a finely crafted folk number. Amigo’s soft, finger picked guitar work lays a foundation for a mournful vocal, but despite the laid back music, a lyric exploring a break up never holds back. Against the mellow melodies, phrases like “like a house that’s on fire, you throw in the memories” and “we used to be happy” go straight for the heart. With a classic style, this is one single that proves that Amigo The Devil is up there with Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash when it comes to contrasting a stark message with a strange beauty.

The early singles from Karamalien shared some enjoyable indie pop melodies, but 2023’s ‘Do You Really Wanna Go’ takes things a step further in terms of immediacy. This buoyant and catchy slice of pop could have been spawned at any point since the late 90s, and that gives the duo a wonderfully timeless quality here. The number flaunts a really great bassline where elements of jazz funk colour the pop sounds, whilst the vocals owe far more to the loveably twee retro pop of Saint Etienne. The fusion of the two styles leads to something that rises beyond mere kitsch. The whole arrangement has charm, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Leanie Kaleido’s knowingly fey vocal; she latches onto the repetitive hook with a genuine glee that really makes a simple idea shine.

The marriage of glam infused guitar tones and congas gives James Clarke Five’s ‘Gadfly Groove’ an immediate injection of T.Rex inspired coolness, and that’ll be enough for some people to gravitate towards this superb single. It’s not a direct rip-off of classic Bolan, however; a layer of harmony vocals gives the track more of a 90s feel, and an unexpected jazzy sax occasionally takes the track off in a very different direction. It’s one of those recordings that absolutely bristles with energy, and its sharp production and simple hook really help to give a decent arrangement the best possible send off. By the time each of its main elements come together for a heavily layered climax, there’s a feeling of being in the presence of a modern classic – even if its inspirations are less than contemporary.

Taking an old school approach to rock, the opening vocal on Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts’ ‘Take The Long Way’ has a hint of Bret Michaels in its sassiness. You shouldn’t look for much more of an 80s glam influence here, though, since the bulk of the music blends a love of big haired rock with some of Brett Walker’s enjoyably trashy power pop. In this respect, the Nashville influence on Tuk’s music comes through very clearly. Using a chopping riff to power a great verse, this track is tough sounding when it counts, but a pop-rock tinged chorus loaded with harmonies and AOR keys lends a very commercial edge, whilst a twin lead guitar break accentuates a classic feel. In melodic rock terms, this is absolutely marvellous – the feel good hit you didn’t know you needed.

A fretless bass sound and a gentle marimba create the core of the brilliant ‘Crystal Blue’ by Still Corners. This mix of dream pop and floaty ideals creates the perfect marriage, resulting in something almost other worldly. The arrangement never really moves too far from its opening notes, save for a slightly bigger melody for a chorus and to present a very understated jazz guitar break, but it doesn’t need to. The blend of hazy pop and Tessa Murray’s unfussy, natural lead vocal is very appealing, and creates the feeling of being on a sun trapped beach throughout. In terms of that atmosphere, it’s likely one of the best tunes influenced by the idea of looking across open water since Groove Armada released ‘At The River’ almost a quarter of a century earlier.

Sharing a very retro mood, the more mellow elements of ‘Come On, Come In’ by UK rock band Silveroller owe a massive debt to those early Black Crowes ballads and the more sedate tracks from the Faces back catalogue, but there’s something much richer at stake. This single has that very familiar heart, sure, but on the quiet verses, the featured vocal is much stronger, and even by the time Silveroller inevitably decide to rock things up, the musicianship is second to none. The featured solo has a huge amount of fire; the heavy rhythm has a natural power, and the louder vocal sounds ready to challenge some of rock’s major talents. There’s a lot of talk about a “new wave of classic rock” (an oxymoron if ever there were), but if we accept there is such a thing, these guys deserve be one of that journalistic-made scene’s genuine success stories.

May 2023=May 2024