Black Keys, Black Crowes and the next in line for Mastodon’s mind-expanding metal crown: this week’s essential guitar tracks

The Black Keys' Patrick Carney (left) and Dan Auerbach perform onstage at the Audacy Riptide Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida on December 2, 2023
(Image credit: Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello, and welcome to Essential Guitar Tracks. As you may well know, every seven days (or thereabouts), we endeavor to bring you a selection of songs from across the guitar universe, all with one thing in common: our favorite instrument plays a starring role.

Our goal is to give you an overview of the biggest tracks, our editor’s picks and anything you may have missed. We’re pushing horizons and taking you out of your comfort zone – because, as guitarists, that’s something we should all be striving for in our playing. 

So, here are our highlights from the past seven days – now with a Spotify playlist…

The Black Keys – Beautiful People (Stay High)

Beautiful People (Stay High), the energetic return of Akron, Ohio's finest rock combo, is devoid of guitar fireworks – but then again, that’s not what a Black Keys song is for. As he has since the Keys went supernova with 2010’s Brothers, Dan Auerbach focuses on doling out the funkiest riffs East of the Mississippi. 

In both its chorus and its name, Beautiful People (Stay High), has a euphoric, gospel-like feel – with Auerbach following the lead of the horns in both his supple, funky scratching and slinky leads, which, of course, are seasoned with a healthy dose of fuzz. (JM)

The Black Crowes – Wanting and Waiting

With news that Southern blues-rock stalwarts Black Crowes would be returning for their first record in 15 years comes a rip-roaring lead single – titled Wanting and Waiting – that ushers in the next era of the band. Paving the way for their ninth album, the track is a sultry, swampy romp, supercharged with greasy guitar grooves and blues-y exchanges. Worth the wait. (MO) 

Waxahatchee – Right Back to It (feat. MJ Lenderman)

Two of the brightest and most unique talents to come out of the South in recent years come together on Right Back to It, the new tune from Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project. MJ Lenderman – best known as the guitarist for Wednesday – adds some beautiful textures to this unhurried waltz. Stay for that solo, though – showcasing his immaculate phrasing and perfect sense of how to work around the melody (and not distract from it), Lenderman is as smooth as any Nashville professional, minus any of the well-worn cliches. (JM)

Slift – Weavers’ Wift

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – the Sub Pop signed French trio are next in line for Mastodon’s mind-expanding metal crown. This latest taster of their new album, Ilion, is laced with intricate guitar, from ringing psychedelia to the sort of riffs that recall Gojira’s terraforming scale. 

It’s accompanied by another sci-fi video installment – all linked up to an overarching story of “Homeric” proportions involving ancient gods, convict ships, and interplanetary travel – that plays out through the rest of the record. The album drops next month, which frankly, does not give us enough time to understand everything that is happening here. (MP) 

C Turtle – Shake It Down

To say Shake It Down wouldn't sound out of place on a hypothetical record masterminded by a supergroup comprising the personnel of Wet Leg, Big Thief, Snail Mail, Fontaines DC and other indie heroes would be somewhat accurate, but even then it would probably undersell it – that’s how tasty this track is. Shake it Down is its own untethered beast – courtesy of emerging act C Turtle, who welcome listeners into their scuzzy indie sonic universe with lashings of loose, unhinged, and deliciously-laid-back-but-perfectly-on-point guitar thrashes. (MO)

Gouge Away – Stuck in a Dream

Performed almost entirely live, Deep Sage is the forthcoming third album from the wiry post-hardcore quintet, and Stuck in a Dream is a ferocious introduction. All Jesus Lizard riffs, acerbic, uneasy bends and urgent post-punk energy, this is a two-and-a-half-minute jolt of electricity for the ears. (MAB)

Lord Dying – The Universe Is Weeping

The self-proclaimed progressive sludge outfit are readying the followup to 2019’s Mysterium Tremendum, and it has a similarly high-concept title: Clandestine Transcendence. First taste The Universe Is Weeping takes thrash-worthy harmony leads and contorts them into an intoxicating, enveloping dual-guitar riff that forms the track’s metallic backbone. (MAB)

Grieving – Tarpaulin

On Tarpaulin, UK four-piece Grieving have expanded from their fine line in roughly-hewn Jawbreaker/HWM melodic punk into post-hardcore territory, taking in a grab bag of late Dischord releases and a thick slab of Pavement in the process. It sounds less comfortable and a little more anxious, wending and winding around layers of arpeggiated guitar licks and textural touches before unleashing the sort of cathartic chorus that bounces around your brain all day. (MP)

BIG|BRAVE – I felt a funeral

BIG|BRAVE guitarist Mathieu Ball once told us, “Whenever we play something too musical, I feel it’s almost a cop out. We have to get rid of any traditional guitar playing!” And that in itself is a reason to listen to any new release from the Canadian experimental rock collective.

On I felt a funeral, every slide, swell and fade of Ball and Robin Wattie’s playing is as important, if not more so, than the notes they play, while their gritty tones fry and sizzle with brooding intensity. (MAB)

BODEGA – Tarkovski

With a suite of guitars dripping in dreamy chorus and a minimalist lead line that is far more infectious than it has any right to be, Tarvoski ushers in the next era of BODEGA – the punk cultural commentators who are gearing up to release their new album this year. 

Titled Our Brand Could Be Yr Life, the record has been teased as a fuzz-soaked collection of rock ruminations dealing with the “slow-creep of corporate think into youth culture,” and its lead single is a fitting curtain lifter. If those indie guitars and ripping solos are anything to go by, it looks like a completely fresh BODEGA is on the way. And we’re so here for it. (MO)

Emma Ayzenberg – lucile

lucile – the latest preview of LA-based singer/songwriter Emma Ayzenberg’s forthcoming iron mountain EP – is a lushly orchestrated gem. Ayzenberg gamely holds down the fort with her acoustic fingerpicking, while Gregory Uhlmann adds some (dark) colors ‘round the edges in the form of clipped, gothic single-note statements that fit Ayzenberg’s beautiful vocals and the song’s cinematic string arrangement like a glove. (JM)

Dead Poet Society – My Condition

A sugar-rush earworm from LA’s DPS that comes ahead of the release of second album, Fission, later this month. It incorporates the gang vocal euphoria of the likes of Grouplove with Royal Blood’s stomping riffs. It feels designed for big stages – full of huge tones, arena-sized reverbs, and a generous serving of ‘woahs’. (MP)

Bring Me the Horizon – Kool-Aid

Bring Me The Horizon’s fine form has continued unabated into 2024, with the British rock band expanding upon their Post Human series with its latest addition, Kool-Aid

Following the precedent set by the five tracks that came before it, Kool-Aid is quintessential BMTH – bruising riffs, big soundscapes, and bold vocals. Watch this space for news regarding the band’s upcoming album, Post Human: NeX GEn, which has all the hallmarks of being another BMTH belter. (MO)

Kenzy Peach – Come For Me

A new single from Portland, Oregon based up-’n-comer Kenzy Peach, Come For Me is a delightfully spunky bit of pop. The hooks are massive – primed for airplay and the big stages already – but guitarist Noah Rastegar compliments them with the perfect amount of gritty riffage, jagged leads, and even some Sonic Youth-like dissonance to lead the song out. Oh, and that big-time, super-singable solo? Pure air-guitar gold. (JM) 

Also on this week’s playlist…

  • Caligula's Horse – The Stormchaser
  • Liam Gallagher, John Squire – Just Another Rainbow
  • Kris Barras Band – Hourglass
  • Marika Hackman – The Yellow Mile
  • Judas Priest – Panic Attack
  • Bill Ryder-Jones – I Hold Something In My Hand
  • Holy Wars – Tension/Release
  • Steve Hackett – Wherever You Are
  • Omni – Plastic Pyramid (feat. Izzy Glaudini)

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.