Over the first six months of 2024, Real Gone received hundreds of submissions for the Singles Bar. Naturally, not everything appealed, and with only eight tracks featured every week, there were various great tracks that also fell by the wayside. Our Singles Bar “Summer Special” rounds up some of the best sounds that didn’t find a previous home. It would’ve been a travesty not to share such good music, but in a couple of cases, we’ve even included material that really should have featured at the Singles Bar around the time of release. Within this batch of twenty top tunes, we’ve pulled together some very retro sounding pop-rock, something with a huge late 60s sound, a couple of gothy bits, a nod to Americana, and even a slice of trad folk. We hope this round up of bits and pieces introduces you to something new, and maybe even inspires you to check out more material.


One of the greatest underground singles of ’24, Vazum’s ‘Blush’ shares a massive love for 80s goth and dreampop sounds. The rhythms and guitar sounds employed throughout hark back to the very best 4AD output of yesteryear, and the stomping gothic groove that powers everything feels like an obvious throwback to ‘Tinderbox’ era Siouxsie. Within their retro world, though, Vazum truly shine. Emily Sturm’s enthusiastic vocal glides brilliantly across a sheet of shimmering guitars throughout, whilst those guitars summon a strong blend of melody and atmosphere. This sounds like something you’ve known forever: a Siouxsie tune that got a little overlooked, or even a busy Cocteau Twins piece that aims squarely for the more commercial… It’s absolutely marvellous.

There’s a whole world of warmth running throughout ‘Collide’ by Chasing Kites. The Bristol based indie rock band have updated a very 90s sound here which contrasts a crashy sounding chorus with a very melodic vocal. Perhaps more impressive is the way they use fluid sounding basslines and slightly reverbed guitars in the manner of a more modern prog band, but without succumbing to any of prog’s general excesses. The music rarely sounds any less than huge; the soaring vocals match the music beat for beat and the slightly grandiose instrumental sections highlight the work of some very talented musicians. This is a superb track.

A slightly croony vocal might, at first, bring to mind artists like John Cale and Tindersticks, but ‘The Guttersnipe’ by Scott Yoder has a distinct personality all of its own. Beneath Scott’s slight dour delivery, this single’s arrangement takes in various different styles. There are moments where the rhythm is dominated by choppy rock tinged guitars; the lead break takes in elements of blues rock; the dark layers of keys which lurk in the back bring vague hints of Lee Hazlewood’s cosmic country, and there are even nods to light sounding ska. On paper, this might seem like an odd cornucopia of sounds and influences, but thanks to a strong vocal linking everything with an atmospheric tone and a strong melody fleshing out an understated chorus, this feels surprisingly natural. With this recording, Yoder takes alternative singer songwriter influences into new and contemporary places, giving potential fans the kind of track that can be enjoyed on first listen, but sounds even better over time.

Released in February ’24 as an “anti-valentine”, Canyons and Locusts’ ‘Love Goes Down The Drain’ is a high octane workout that values repetition over everything else. In an instant, the buzzing guitar line latches onto a great garage rock riff and doesn’t let go. Nor does it particularly change throughout the rest of the track. Instead, it underscores a careening, slightly ugly vocal that – at least at first – sounds as if it might be better suited to a chaotic slice of psychobilly. Given a moment to adjust, this blistering, semi lo-fi single kicks into gear to become a blast of garage punk that really works a minimalist approach for maximum thrills. There’s no finesse here, just a force of nature at work, but that leaves behind something that most fans of the style will enjoy.

Never shying away from a love of classic blink-182, Neck Deep and Sum 41, Not Dead Yet’s ‘Sunset City’ is a slab of classic sounding pop punk. Despite the band’s UK origins, the tone of the guitars, the shininess of the vocal and all round general vibe brings a world of US sunshine to the fore, and from the very beginning, its clear that these lads have really nailed a Transatlantic sound. The opening riffs could easily slot into a blink-182 classic circa ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’, but its the instrumental bridges that impress most of all here, where the drums and guitars adopt a much chunkier sound and appear to channel Sum 41’s much-loved earlier hits. It doesn’t matter that the influences here are worn so obviously; the musicianship is absolutely spot on, and the chorus melody is as infectious as hell. This is the sound of a pop punk band who are on the road to greater things.

A pounding rhythm and sharp sounding guitar kick off Dirty Slippers’ ‘On Top of The World’ in an energetic style, but the track then takes an unexpected turn into a more sedate verse. The combination of vocal and melody is still strong, but there’s a slightly downbeat quality that feels out of step with such a punchy intro. That, of course, is a red herring. Building everything back up, the band takes a strong mix of melodic rock and jangling indie to massive heights on a chorus which adds a pop-ish flair to a great riff. The combination of jubilant vocals and 90s-esque sounds results in something almost timeless, and the relentless hook is guaranteed to stick in your head. This is still recognisable as the same band who gave the world ‘Caroline’ ten years earlier, but now, the Slippers sound tighter, brighter and far more enthused.

Take a handful of great musicians and a great song and you’re almost guaranteed to create something classic. That’s definitely an “almost” in this case, since the twangy vocal takes a little while to settle in, but on ‘This Time Tomorrow’, Tall Poppy Syndrome weave some solid power pop. They’ve taken the old Kinks cut and cranked the guitars to give it a rockier edge, but the greatest interest here comes from a prominent bassline spends the whole three minutes dancing gleefully between the chopping guitar chords and forthright vocal, absolutely stealing the show. It may be a little tougher, but the heart of the old Ray Davies composition still beats strongly, and between Clem Burke’s drumming, that bassline and – eventually – the kind of chorus harmonies that such a cover deserves, this works out very well. Considering the musicians involved (a member of the original Bee Gees band, half of Blondie’s rhythm section, someone from the current line up of garage rockers The Seeds, and a couple of faces from the power pop underground), it could have, perhaps, been even better, but as it is, it’s great to hear a light shone rather enthusiastically upon one of the lesser celebrated Kinks classics.

With a strong blend of indie guitars and fine orchestration, Garretson & Gorodetsky’s ‘Weight of The World’ shares a fantastic 60s vibe. The track’s hard strummed guitars and flowing flute melodies are drawn straight from the underground of 1967, and a mix of indie-ish and semi-operatic vocals gives this rather bold single even more of a grand dimension. Despite its indulgent qualities, it still manages to share a really great melody, and its core hints at a love of Traffic, Jefferson Airplane and even Eric Burdon’s busier sounds from the late 60s. In terms of something massively retro, this is by turns a little unsettling and impressive, and the fact that the musicians are clearly very happy to think outside of the box and swim against 2024’s musical tide makes it even better.

The finger-in-the-ear harmony vocals that introduce The Longest Johns’ ‘Shawneetown’ make no secret of the track’s trad folk roots. That’ll instantly be a turn off for those that aren’t into the style, but it’s immediately clear that these guys are good at what they do. They know it too, since the main melody doesn’t really stray from the opening remit. The fiddle that drives some of their other material is nowhere to be found, and expected late arrival of a drum never comes. Instead, the song’s rhythm is supplied by some very live sounding stomps and handclaps, feeding even further into the stripped down, really trad feel. ‘Shawneetown’ shows of The Johns at their purest, making it a treat for fans and, hopefully, an interesting curio for other folk fans.

Still Corners can often be relied upon for great indie pop sounds and ‘The Dream’ is no exception. The presence of shimmering guitars hints at a great love of dream pop, but as with a lot of the band’s best material, this has bigger ideas than merely recycling a classic 4AD Records sound. The single’s rhythm immediately shares something that sounds like a reworking of the Cure classic ‘A Forest’ – complete with pulsing bassline – but a hushed, floaty vocal gives the familiar rhythm a rather different feel. Adding even more of Still Corners’ own character, the track introduces a semi-jazzy lead guitar break which further adds to a sunny quality, whilst a world of bendy, backwards notes increases a dream-like state. The way the vocal fills space without ever seeming to break into anything with any real weight behind it shows an impressive restraint, and without trying too hard to be deliberately quirky, this is actually something of a quirky pop oriented treat.

Monte’s ‘Dysfunctional Mess’ is a track that’s big on riffs. The bulk of the arrangement takes on the mood of high octane US-centric punk with a full throttle sound that crosses the skate sounds of Pennywise with the pointed anger of Bad Religion, which works well when driving a Kim Shattuck-esque vocal forward. It’s when thinking a little further outside of the box that this single really shines, however. Its intro throws the listener squarely back into the heyday of the NWOBHM with a full throttle riff where a speed driven rhythm is lifted via a pointed guitar tone, and at the other end of the scale, the riffs slow to show off a semi-doomy, semi-grungy groove that highlights the frustration within the angry lyric. Although most punk-centric tunes work best when they attack with a short, sharp shock, the way Monte manages to blend anger with some great musicianship transcends its basic remit, leading to something that’s rather epic.

‘Dead Sky Lullaby’ by Per Wilberg mixes elements of desert rock and stoner rock with a pinch of synthy darkwave to create something huge. There are moments where the music hints at some of Opeth’s more melodic works – which is understandable, considering Per’s prior involvement with the popular Swedes – but it’s the moments that push forward with a groove that sounds like a modern take on early Hawkwind that really catch the ear here. The main guitar riff occasionally feels relentless in the best possible way, and its repetitive elements more than capture a very retro sounding power. The music has such a tough edge for something on the fringes of desert rock, that there are times when the semi-aggressive lead vocal actually gets in the way. Wilberg’s enthusiasm shines through his energised performance, but it’ll be the instrumental elements that win out, especially just after the four minute mark where Per sounds as if he’s been mainlining bits of The Fierce And The Dead…

Some songs sound pretty timeless. That’s certainly true of Oliver Hohlbrugger and Frøkedal’s ‘Black Canvas’. Across seven introspective minutes, the vocalists weave a haunting atmosphere that shows both performers at their peak. Oliver adopts a perfect Leonard Cohen inspired croon; Frøkedal, a Nico-esque cry, but with a firm grip of actual melody. They compliment each other perfectly, whether alternating on verses, or harmonising on a moody chorus. Musically, the very gentle, jazzy melody weaves an effortless atmosphere, where the Cohen love meets a pinch of Bad Seeds and a world of string sounds, creating the ultimate dark chanson. After a couple of minutes, there’s a feeling that this has been lurking in the listeners’ collective psyche forever, and with Oliver’s rich vocals selling a smooth gothic melody, the low key arrangement really works. The influences might occasionally seem a little too clear, but this number is absolutely perfect on every level.

If you’re looking for retro sounds of a rougher variety, Beebe Gallini have got you more than covered with ‘She-Hulk’. This single wastes no time in setting an echoing garage rock riff in place, and although the main thrust isn’t far removed from the more tuneful end of The Stooges and MC5 catalogues, as before, this Boston band fuse the grit with a terrific chorus melody. Beyond the riffs, listeners can experience Miss Georgia Peach and Amy Pearson coming together with a great vocal force on a spirited chorus that injects a little more of a jangling 60s vibe into everything. It isn’t a flashy arrangement, but it doesn’t need to be: in a little over two and a half minutes, this band sets the mood, hammers a pleasingly repetitive hook and then splits. What’s more, they clearly know they’ve made an impression in the most direct and effective way.

Floating Witch’s Head take garage based noises to further extremes. They’re not interested in tempering their rawness with the kind of hooks served an on-form Bebee Gallini. Their ‘Movin’ On’ single takes the repetitive elements of early Hawkwind and dresses the riffs in a distorted cloak, which often gives the impression of listening back through blown speakers to something that sounds like a space rock band reinterpreted by Cardiacs by way of Ministry. They then couple their relentlessly rough groove with a howling vocal that, in its own way, seems just as keen to rattle the listener…but for all of its bluster, it’s great. By the time the instrumental break arrives – replacing a traditional solo with bursts of distortion, Jesus & Mary Chain style – FWH sound ready to explode. This was never going to be a hit, but for the right kind of ear, it has all the makings of a fierce sounding underground classic.

‘Dreamworld’ by Lovelorn Dolls showcases a very retro sound. Right from its opening keyboard melody, this is a track that allows 80s goth influences to bristle against more of a melodic rock mood, and that catches the ear immediately. Pulsing synths and layered vocals add a little more of an alternative 90s flair, and within about a minute, that results in something that that feels rather busy, but the complex approach that’s taken never feels self indulgent. Between the keys and a dual vocal that flits around with an obvious glee, the track also manages to be rather uplifting, despite its gothy overtones. The band have been likened to Jack Off Jill, but there’s more of a melodic streak running through this single than Jessicka and company had managed in an entire career’s worth of recordings…

‘Scars’, the first single from Fates Messenger, taps into some fantastic sounding metal. Following an intro where droning sounds and deep voices create an ominous atmosphere, everything explodes into a world of chugging rhythms, sharing a huge pneumatic power. Initially, there’s a blast of something that sounds like metalcore, but after giving itself a moment to settle, the guitar riff drops into something closer to classic thrash. By the time the chorus rolls around, Fates Messenger change things up again and introduce a light industrial chug which, coupled with a more melodic hook, celebrates the sounds of ‘Demanufacture’ era Fear Factory. There’s a great heaviness here, but also a lot of variety: even at the point where the track comes to a natural end, the band introduces a doom-laden heaviness, falling somewhere between hardcore and metalcore. It’s a bit of a kitchen sink arrangement and the growling vocal won’t appeal to everyone, but in terms of contemporary metal, this is an absolutely storming debut.

Following on from the busy sounding ‘This Wooden Box’, The Dead South’s ‘Yours To Keep’ is a far more sedate affair. The stripped back arrangement focuses heavily on hard strummed rhythm guitar and banjo which sets a typically rootsy sound in place, but if anything sticks, its the narrative lyric and very melodic vocal. Contrasting an accessible tune with an ominous lyric, it actually fits nicely with ‘This Wooden Box’ despite sounding very different, but for those not into storytelling, there are some great harmonies here which really make the track. The way The Dead South mix their dark messages with great harmonies so effortlessly places them somewhere near the pinnacle of Americana for a more alternative audience, and for those looking for something that sounds like a more commercial take on something from the Amigo The Devil playbook, this is a track that’s almost guaranteed to appeal.

‘Gadfly Groove’ by James Clarke Five fused funky elements from the 60s with a bit of 70s glam rock to create an indulgent – but never self-indulgent – musical treat. The band’s follow up single, ‘Ghost’ ventures in a very different direction, but can still be considered retro. Loaded with harpsichord sounds and moments of lush orchestration, the track is heavily indebted to the British chamber pop sounds of the late 60s, but Clarke’s big voice and a move towards a more indie-ish sound for a huge chorus give the number more of its own identity. Every element here is precise; Clarke and his band clearly understand the benefits of a grand arrangement, but this has been put together in such a way that it never feels too grand. The melodic core still shares a flow that feels very natural. This is one of those tracks that shows there’s far more to retro rock and pop than just wheeling out a few Black Crowes hooks or an old Jellyfish melody, and repeated plays never weaken its impact.

The debut single from Eye, ‘In Your Night’ takes an interesting approach when sharing goth based sounds. Instead of taking the 80s drenched Sisters of Mercy route, or even focusing on the heavy doomy approach, the first half of the track focuses on atmospherics. Growing out of a huge keyboard drone, the number’s slow arrangement features cold guitar work set very effectively against a hushed vocal. Jessica Ball – also of Welsh sludge/doom band MWWB – contrasts the music’s potentially laborious feel by delivering a clean, quiet performance that owes far more to 90s alternative – and more specifically, dreampop – which gradually stirs up a deceptively strong and haunting melody which pulls in the listener with its easy style. Then, with the audience firmly on board, the amps are cranked, and Eye wheel out a classic doom riff that pushes forth with a superb slow, Sabbath-esque power, but in keeping with the band’s alternative slant, this isn’t just an easy rehash. There’s a shoegaze-ish fuzz lurking beneath everything, whilst wibbling keys add extra texture and link the heaviness with the previous cold and floaty moods. Sounding like The White Swan with less sludge, this is absolutely marvellous.

June 2024

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