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…
blink-182 – More Than You Know
Released alongside Box Car Racer-esque ballad One More Time, More Than You Know strikes the opposite tone to the feelgood pop-punk of Edging – Tom DeLonge’s first song of his second reunion with blink-182 – and taps right into the band’s ‘serious’ eras.
The track ranks among blink’s heaviest offerings thanks to Travis Barker’s relentless kick drum work in the chorus, but more importantly, Tom DeLonge’s knack for an irresistible moving octave shape riff shows no sign of abating.
All of which bodes well for the reunited trio’s first album since 2011, One More Time…, which drops next month. (MAB)
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Sweet ’Lil Lies
No, this isn’t a blues-y rerun of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies – it’s the latest track from Telecaster titan Joanne Shaw Taylor, who brings her A-game (both in terms of tone and phrasing) for more than five minutes of top-notch noodling.
Seriously, if you’re looking for examples of flawless blues guitar tone, look no further. Taylor tightens things up for a compressed, just-over-the-edge-of-breakup lead tone that she channels into not one, but two of the finest blues solos you’ll hear this week. (MO)
The Breeders – Divine Mascis (feat. J Mascis)
Two giants of alt-rock unite for this previously unreleased alternative joyride through The Breeder’s 1993 song Divine Hammer. Reportedly, it was sent to “guitar god” J Mascis for his input, only to be returned with an alternate vocal. The brass baubles on that guy…
Still, it’s all worked out and Mascis’ crackling vocal sounds superb over the real Deal backing, laden as it is, with colorful distortions and vocal harmony. (MP)
The National – Crumble (feat. Rosanne Cash)
We sure weren’t expecting – less than five months after they returned with First Two Pages of Frankenstein – another new record from America’s favorite sad indie dads, and yet, this week the quintet surprised us with yet another new LP, Laugh Track.
The album finds the band pushing themselves in some refreshing ways, no more so than on Crumble, on which the Dessner boys put their cowboy hats on, throwing in some tasty, appropriately bend-y country fills to accompany Rosanne Cash’s sterling guest vocals. (JM)
Chelsea Wolfe – Dusk
The queen of gothic industrial guitar returns after her blockbuster 2021 collaboration with Converge. Dusk is typically brooding, but it’s less chaotic than Wolfe’s usual electric fare, easing off on the distortion pedals and upping the atmosphere. But all hell breaks loose for the outro as an arsenal of direct fuzz tones add an explosive edge to wiry riffs that would otherwise border on blues territory. (MAB)
The Vaccines – Heartbreak Kid
British indie rock stalwarts The Vaccines ushered in news of their sixth album this week by dropping their first single of 2023. With the cavernous reverb soundscapes that hark back to early years Vaccines – especially their cult classic debut album – Heartbreak Kid has everything you’d want from a Vaccines song: a catchy chorus, infectious melodies, and searing guitar licks that test the band’s indie rock resolve. (MO)
Squirrel Flower – Intheskatepark
Imagine Wavves recontextualised away from the ocean in an overcast city and you’re getting somewhere near the super-chunky tonal touchpoints for Squirrel Flower’s new single Intheskatepark. That fuzz is thick, but it’s all juxtaposed with a wispy vocal that drifts over the top like smoke. (MP)
Johnny Marr – Somewhere
It may not feature his 9-pickup Fender Stratocaster, but alt-rock guitar hero Johnny Marr’s new tune, Somewhere, has pretty much everything else you’d want from the man. By that, we mean – from literally the first downbeat – arpeggios that sound as if they’ve descended from the heavens themselves, and ringing motifs that’ll stick in your head for hours. And just what is that Lipstick-pickup Jag? (JM)
Steven Wilson – What Life Brings
The first tastes of The Harmony Codex, the Porcupine Tree mastermind’s forthcoming seventh solo album, haven’t been especially heavy in the six-string department, but What Life Brings is a rich tapestry of gentle acoustics, shimmering tremolo’d electrics and an epic, exquisitely delivered guitar solo that is pure Gilmour. (MAB)
Yasmin Williams – Dawning
Virginia native Yasmin Williams is nothing less than one of the most innovative and exciting acoustic guitar players in the game right now, and her new single, a fingerpicking masterclass titled Dawning, may just be her most dazzling composition yet.
While it’s technically airtight, the real riches of Dawning are its sense of melody and its rewarding small details – just listen to the harmonics that close out the intro, and the song as a whole. (JM)
Art of Anarchy – Vilified
This hard-rock supergroup have gone through an enviable roster of singers, all of whom feature ‘Scott’ in their name: first Scott Weiland, then Scott Stapp, and now Jeff Scott Soto, who appears on their first new material since 2017.
For all the lineup shifts, the guitar heroics of Jon Votta and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal have remained intact, and if you like your solos with plenty of aching bends and pentatonic runs, you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and hi, Cuba Gooding Jr.! (MAB)
Bleachers – Modern Girl
Recording extraordinaire Jack Antonoff has quickly become The Big Name in pop production in recent years, helming the desk for the likes of Taylor Swift, The 1975, Pink, Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent and many, many others. It’s no wonder that an artist with such a talented ear for crafting records would also be able to make exemplary music of his own, which he does through the Bleachers medium.
His latest track, Modern Girl, is Antonoff with the chains off, loaded with awe-inspiring Springsteenisms aplenty and copious amounts of jangling, chorus-coated guitars. (MO)
Malina Moye – Courage
Back in March, Moye singled out Courage as one of her favorite tracks from her latest album, Dirty. “It has delicious chords,” noted the guitarist and singer. “It’s full sonically and has layers.” Several of those layers consist of beautifully melancholic blues leads that deftly probe through lush, soulful chord work. Call us crazy but we even detect hints of Gary Moore in the overdriven solo tone and hangdog sustain. (MP)
Also on this week's playlist...
- Bad Nerves – USA (Live)
- Eliza McLamb – Glitter
- Hannah Wicklund – Lost Love
- HotWax – Phone Machine
- Pretenders – Losing My Sense Of Taste
- Crawlers – Would You Come to My Funeral
- Being As An Ocean – Death Can Wait
- The Beaches – Kismet