The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century

The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century – 2013

Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Was there a bigger guitar tune in 2013 than this electro-disco offering from Nile Rodgers and Daft Punk? We don’t think so!

Made Up Mind – Tedeschi Trucks Band

This 2013 title track features some of the slide master’s more up-tempo licks, oozing warmth and soul in the way only he can.

Drive Home – Steven Wilson

It took one of prog's leading luminaries to rein in the otherworldly virtuosity of Guthrie Govan, but the results were spectacular. Drive Home sees Govan dig deep and deliver his most sensitive, vocal licks, bringing Gilmour-esque wailing into the 21st century. Sensational.

Only Friend – The Temperance Movement

This opening track from the British blues rockers’ debut record packs some truly wonderful vintage guitar tones which dance on that magical point of break-up.

Burn MF – Five Finger Death Punch

The frenzied thrash riffing that arrives halfway into this track could very well be the sound of FFDP at their most uncompromisingly heavy.

Lola Montez – Volbeat

Joining forces with Rob Caggiano proved to be a good move for the Danish ‘Elvis metal’ group, as heard on this highlight from their first album together.

I Need My Girl – The National

The ambient sounds here on indie stalwarts The National’s 2013 single are reproduced beautifully in live shows – and a scout around YouTube tells us the Cincinnati five-piece use the same guitars most of the time. Aaron Dessner plays the fingerstyle arpeggios on his 1963 Fender Jazzmaster, providing that enduring hook line.

Occasional washes of background noise come as twin brother Bryce gently taps his Silvertone 1446 (routed through overdrive, ambient delay and a long reverb) headstock against the ground. We know what you’re thinking, and nope, neither would we!

Listen out at 2:02 when Bryce switches to his non-reverse Gibson Firebird to match Aaron’s arpeggios, but, crucially, playing a quarter note later each time. Expect this to sound utterly elating on a live stage as the two licks fi re at you from opposite sides of the stage. 

You could achieve a similar effect using a quarter-note delay routed to a second amp (you’d be setting up a second channel, so you'd need a line selector to achieve it; some multi-FX pedals also support two-channel routing), but the real magic is in two pairs of hands and the subtle differences created by two guitarists playing off each other. As uplifting as it is beautiful, I Need My Girl is truly lovely stuff indeed.

Another Year – Animals As Leaders

Animals As Leaders had to appear in our list, but, with their fingers and frets doing all the talking, the instrumental act are a leftfield choice. 

Some will doubtless bemoan a shortage of actual songs, but with such diverse musical influences spanning the full gamut of the progressive and avant garde metal spectrum, eight-string pioneers Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes are at the forefront of guitar-playing innovation.

Tosin’s fingerpicked chord melody is achievable for many players and his Holdsworth-esque licks that follow are on the most melodic side of the fusion spectrum

As for choosing a great song, we reckon it’s a tough task. Tosin in particular is an incredible shredder. Tempting Time and CAFO from the band’s self-titled 2015 release are facemelters. Take a listen if you want to be wowed! However, we've opted for the more sedate affair that is Another Year from The Joy Of Motion.

Tosin’s fingerpicked chord melody is achievable for many players and his Holdsworth-esque licks that follow are on the most melodic side of the fusion spectrum.

Even so, you’ll need a full transcription and plenty of practice time if you want to learn to play this masterful and beautiful piece of contemporary instrumental prog.

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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.