The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century

The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century – 2016

Silvera – Gojira

A simple bludgeoning compared to their early tech-metal extremities, yet every bit as potent, thanks to its chromatic dissonance, up-note accentuation and pick-tapping.

Weathered – Jack Garratt

Jack told TG, “[Weathered] is just a Strat, middle pickup, Tube Screamer on, and reverb activated. I have the Tube Screamer on a hot setting and have the tone pretty much all the way up, the level all the way up, and the gain down, and what that gives me is a ‘clean’ tone that’s got some warmth and some buzz.”

Atlas, Rise! – Metallica

With head-banging chug riffage harking back to Master Of Puppets, the monolithic Atlas, Rise! is Metallica’s best since The Black Album.

Gelatinous Cube – The Oh Sees

In a career littered with incendiary guitar freakouts, this cut from 2016’s A Weird Exits sees John Dwyer at his unhinged best.

Had 2 Know – White Denim

Who knew psychedelic blues could be so much fun? James Petralli’s dexterous playing makes this upbeat track the perfect opener.

Gardenia – Iggy Pop

The loss of David Bowie hit us all hard, but Iggy’s musical tribute recalls the Thin White Duke’s finest.

Dopamine – Diiv

Has there been a band in the last decade more instrumental in the shoegaze/dream pop/grunge revival than New York’s DIIV? Maybe, maybe not. But what’s undeniable is the influence the four-piece have had on the wider indie world at large since their 2012 debut Oshin

The story of DIIV bandleader Zachary Cole Smith is one of influence, humiliation, redemption and pure artistic catharsis. With 2016’s masterful Is The Is Are, the group doubled down on their Joy Division-meets-Slowdive template that has inspired countless groups on both sides of the Pacific since.

Lead single Dopamine carries most of its emotional weight up front with winding, clean guitar riffs and hooky, evocative licks. Cole is known to prefer solid-body electrics, and has been spotted wielding a number of Fenders over the years including Mustangs, Jaguars, Duo Sonics and Cyclones. 

His amp set-up has remained fairly consistent, favouring a Roland JC-120 combo, whilst his pedalboard is known to have included numerous delays and choruses from Boss, Electro-Harmonix and EarthQuaker Devices.

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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.