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. For lovers of great indie rock, there’s a real treat; for those who like the folkier end of the indie scale, there’s something almost as strong. We’ve got electronica, we’ve got something a little gothy, and even something with a death metal core. Stylistically speaking, this week, the gloves are well and truly off…


Little Fireworks tap into a very something very emotive on ‘Like Ghosts’. The track’s clean guitar tones fill the opening verse with a beautiful ringing sound, and even once a tougher stance is adopted for a louder chorus, there’s something within the chosen melody that really rattles the corners of memory. When returning to the quieter riff, the emotive qualities sound stronger than before, but what makes this truly great is the presence a lyric that avoids clichés, despite the theme of a break up being part of songwriters’ stock forever. “My side is full of thorns”, calls out the protagonist, before asking for “someone mend the alarm that keeps howling inside [my] splintered chest”. Everything here is pretty much perfect: indie riffs that carry a massive melody; a pop sheen that’s never saccharine, and an empathetic narrative that really tugs at the heartstrings. On the surface, this number sounds like a great tribute to the indie sounds of the 00s, but the production has a brightness that allows the arrangement to sound contemporary and, in short, is a fantastic track.

Here’s a great piece of synthpop from 404 Error. ‘Ethal’ casts the listener right back to 1984 with a world of pulsing keys that occasionally sound like the basis for an old OMD tune, sometimes sound like the band have been exploring the Euro sounds Propaganda and Alphaville, and yet still sound fresh in the present. Deliberately cold, the speed driven backdrop is joined by a semi-gothic vocal that sounds like something pulled from deep within the Siouxsie & the Banshees catalogue, which works brilliantly when repeating the title as if it were a technological mantra. Sharp and occasionally confronting, ‘Ethal’ always manages to be insanely catchy, ensuring it’ll be an instant hit with fans of the style.

Towards the end of 2023, Robots In Love issued the excellent ‘Gossip In Your Head’, a very melodic single that blended electronica and dreampop, overlaid with a strong vocal. In terms of a return, ‘Unbreakable’ shows off a different side to the band with chunkier guitar riffs and a hard edge that mixes the rocky with the cinematic. The tougher arrangement is perfectly suited to a lyric explaining how the band feels when they take the stage. There are some great musical elements here. Those guitar parts, in particular, lend a lot of muscle without ever being flashy, and Elenor’s lead vocal – even drenched in effects – has a moody confidence that’s a perfect fit for the track’s mid tempo stomp. This single might not feel uplifting in the same way as ‘Gossip’, but it shows an underground band unafraid to follow their muse.

On the subject of robots, Cleopatra Records – home of a world of prog tribute albums and Powerman 5000 – present Robot Kids Electric, a project designed to introduce the very young to electronic music. The lead track ‘Wake Up’ has a brilliantly sparse quality, and the arrangement is just perfect for recreating things that evoke the moods of analogue electronica from the early 80s. With its mechanised bleeps and heavily treated vocals, the track takes the idea of “robotic” literally, but in doing so, actually ends up sounding somewhat Kraftwerk-esque! That might be enough to attract an adult audience too, even if it only has a brief novelty value.

US guitarist Delicate Steve weaves a hallucinatory sound on ‘I’ll Be There’, a recording that harks back to a world of 50s guitar instrumentals. The bulk of the track feels slightly bluesy, without offering an obvious concession to blues; there’s a vaguely rootsy quality to the main riff, and yet this isn’t Americana, strictly speaking. The lead guitars hint at surfdom, but you won’t find the energies of Dick Dale here. Steve’s world is purely his own, and even when the melody grows to include a fatter sounding rhythm guitar and tougher lead – both working an understated melody brilliantly – the sound is one that feels a little different. This isn’t a track that cares for fashion, or even any kind of immediacy. It’s kind of timeless…and Steve possibly knows that too.

As part of the ongoing promotion for their excellent album ‘The Departure’, The Shadow Majlis have issued ‘Swallowed By The Sky’ as a digital single. This is a smart move, since it’s much more commercial than the earlier ‘Mazdur’, but doesn’t detract too much from the moody elements of the band’s sound. A cold, goth-pop workout that places Ali’s vocal against a high toned bass and busy percussion, the track has a darkness, but also a strange beauty. Even from first listen, there’s something massively familiar here; perhaps its the way that (much like bits of ‘Mazdur’) the vocal occasionally soars like an old Robert Smith performance, or maybe its the way some of the drums invoke the busier elements of The Cure’s ‘Pornography’ album. Whatever makes it special, there’s no denying that it has a layered sound that’s much smarter than most goth-tinged bands.

With a finger picked melody and airy vocal, Brother Valiant’s ‘C’est La Vie’ has a gentle, folky core. As the tune grows, the singer songwriter adds various layers of mellow indie to give this single a great depth, and the way he uses bright sounding keys to fill space against a deep bass is great. That would be enough to make it work, but the shift to a very 60s flavour via a reverbed guitar on the pre-chorus is lovely, and the chorus itself transforms the arrangement from feeling rather floaty into something with a huge melodic heart. A couple of plays in, this starts to sound like something that’s been propping up radio playlists everywhere for over a decade.

Last up, here’s something absolutely devastating. On ‘Sorrower’, Finland’s I, Cursed bring together various strands of extreme metal to deliver a truly uncompromising two minute blast. The intro fuses hardcore and death metal elements, whilst a world of sampled voices lend a slight industrial flavour. Moving into the verse, the death metal meets grindcore when two very different voices battle against each other, with a harsh rasp actually adding more interest than the deep growls. And then, having pummelled their audience into submission, the band slows for a heavy, metallic grind where their hardcore sound feels like something that would power a world of old school mosh pits. Despite its brevity, ‘Sorrower’ definitely feels like a complete workout.

June 2024