The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century

The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century – 2010

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Like so many Arcade Fire tracks this is utterly hypnotic, with just a surprise major chord subverting a deceptively simple riff.

Back From Cali – Slash 

Reborn as a solo artist, this collaboration with Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy worked so well the partnership had to continue.

Cousins – Vampire Weekend

Proving they had the chops to match the wit, VW expanded their sound here with a flurry of comically spindly riffs.

74 Years Young – Buddy Guy

After an impressive five decades in music, the Chicago blues hero sounded thrillingly defiant, playing harder than ever before.

Miami – Foals

Total Life Forever marked a coming of age for the Oxford five-piece – a more refi ned and mellow offering, with less of the vigorous post-punk riffing of their debut – and Miami represents a summation of the band’s sound and approach to guitar playing circa 2010. 

Kicking off proceedings are the funky, lightly swung twin-guitar lines of frontman/lead guitarist Yannis Philippakis and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Smith, most often delivered on a Travis Bean TB1000S and a P-90-equipped Gibson Les Paul Junior Special Exclusive respectively. 

For effects (and we’re employing a little guesswork here!), we suspect Smith’s guitar (panned right) is running through an EHX POG octaver with a little slapback delay from a Line 6 DL4 into a Fender Blackface amp. 

Yannis’s tone, panned left and without effects, is a little dirtier, likely coming from his preferred Hiwatt amps, and possibly driven with a ‘clean’ boost like the Klon Centaur.

If you have a digital modeller, there are likely to be similar effects to all of these – so it’s a good opportunity to experiment with your multi-effects pedal.

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.