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…
Plini – Still Life (feat. Tosin Abasi)
Two gods of progressive guitar (and their forward-thinking instruments) cross paths with a little bit of lute thrown in for good measure. It’s a dream collaboration for fans of boundary-pushing playing, but resists the urge to fret for the sake of it.
That’s not to say Still Life doesn’t blow out the cobwebs, but Plini’s constructive compositional ear is evident in its clever dynamic flow and pacing. Elsewhere, the Australian instrumentalist pays tribute to the menacing, mechanical sounds of Abasi’s Animals As Leaders material in some of his minor key riffs and disorientating, muted pull-offs.
Abasi himself enters the picture in the final minute with an eight-string guest spot that – were it not for the blisteringly quick runs that puncture the illusion – would sound like something from the Gilmour playbook. (MP)
WILLOW – alone
At the start of the year, pop-punk star Willow Smith was in the studio with St. Vincent, and if we didn’t know any better, we’d guess that Annie Clark crops up to deliver some of her trademark alien riffery on this stone-cold R&B banger. Either that, or she’s been giving Willow lessons in her six-string witchcraft, because there are some seriously off-the-wall fuzz leads here.
alone marks yet another musical about-turn for Willow, deviating from her recent pop-punk efforts and leaning further into guitar-driven odd-pop, with short, sharp rhythm comps and revving solos. And, yet again, it’s a roaring success. (MAB)
Robby Krieger and the Soul Savages – A Day in L.A.
Aside from Nashville, Los Angeles probably has the highest rate of guitarists-per-capita in the world, so anyone looking to be the best at capturing the soul of The City of Angels with six strings has a lot of competition. Few guitarists, however, can make as solid a claim to that crown as Robby Krieger.
A Day In L.A – the first single from the Doors legend’s new band, Robby Krieger and the Soul Savages – beautifully captures all of the city’s sides. You can just about picture the wonder of Hollywood and the Pacific coastline through Krieger’s woozy, bend-heavy licks, and dazzling vibrato displays. (JM)
Marcin – Layla
Fresh from composing a high-profile character theme for Netflix’s One Piece soundtrack, Polish fingerstyle wizard Marcin has now turned his attention back to covers. It was, after all, covers like Kashmir that rapidly expanded his audience, and now Marcin has cordially given his acoustic rearrangement treatment to Layla.
Delivering on its expanded title (Layla on One Guitar), the virtuosic rendition sees the Ibanez signature artist once again go above and beyond, introducing fresh melodic flair while staying faithful to the original hooks. Expect death-defying tapping lines and mind-boggling percussive passages all performed simultaneously. (MO)
Sinkane feat. Tru Osborne - Everything is Everything
Sudanese-American artist Sinkane (who, back in 2019, brought us the incredible Everybody) changes tacks with an achingly smooth soul ballad. It contrasts guest vocalist Tru Osborne’s gossamer vocal with the heavy topic of the compounding exhaustion of living life as a Black person in the US.
It’s an unshowy, yet silken construction from an incredible band of in-in-the-pocket players that quietly weaves in multiple guitars and wah-laden rhythms amid a rich, full arrangement. (MP)
Megan Thee Stallion – Cobra (Rock Remix) (feat. Spiritbox)
Yeah, we didn’t see this one coming, either. Mike Stringer and co bring the djent to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest rap anthem, and the combination of dense distorted powerchords, background screams and Stallion’s raw rhymes will transport you straight back to the early noughties nu-metal revolution. Props to Stringer for sneaking some neat dotted-eighth delay layers under the track’s mellower moments, too.
That’s not to say the original track doesn’t have its guitar highlights, however. Diggy Lessard – son of Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan – plays a searing solo at the end of Stallion’s OG cut. That video is now approaching seven-million views. Who says guitar isn’t mainstream any more? (MAB)
Sheer Mag – Playing Favorites
One of the finest bands to emerge from Philly in the past decade, Sheer Mag have charm in spades, and it sure shines through on Playing Favorites, the first single and title track of their forthcoming album.
The song is led out by a burnin’-rubber solo, but it’s the Johnny Marr-esque arpeggios in the opening bars that immediately hooked us in. (JM)
Kid Kapichi – Tamagotchi
With the help of cutthroat riff tones that could probably be best described as Royal Blood on PEDs, UK-based alt rock outfit Kid Kapichi have returned with Tamagotchi – a bruising-yet-nostalgic gain fest filled with pop culture nods and (more importantly) some of the most grizzly guitar tones you’ll hear this week. Seriously – the call-and-response between those bone-quaking bass hits and chunky lead turnarounds are *chef’s kiss*. (MO)
Ty Segall – My Room
Taken from the prolific songwriter’s proggy new album Three Bells (due January 2024), My Room offers a sort of warped, spiritual counterpart to Brian Wilson’s ode to the comfort and safety of your inner sanctum.
Here Segall’s electric guitar is left knocking on the door of his room – an increasingly invasive presence that tries to pierce its way through as the time passes. (MP)
Caligula’s Horse – Golem
From Plini to Voyager to Karnivool, there’s something in the water in Australia, and it tastes like prog-metal. Now, thinking man’s fretboard-burners Caligula’s Horse have returned with Golem, a slab of intricate aggression that draws from Meshuggah and Animals as Leaders with its boa constrictor-tight palm-muting, but also nods to modern metalcore with some neat pitch-shifter accents.
To our ears, this is the hookiest the Horse have ever been, and the ever-bankable Sam Vallen delivers a quite frankly gorgeous solo that soars like fireworks and descends gracefully like a waterfall. Mark January 26 2024 down for a proper face-melting when new album Charcoal Grace hits your streaming service of choice. (MAB)
Suede – The Sadness in You, the Sadness in Me
A newly released outtake from the veteran English glam-rockers’ recent Autofiction album, The Sadness In You, The Sadness In Me has all the hooks and grandeur you’d expect from a fine Suede cut. The rabble-rousing call-and-response guitar figures early on evoke dancefloors and the mid-noughties glory days of Franz Ferdinand, without drowning in cheap nostalgia. (JM)
The Struts – I Won’t Run
Last week saw the arrival of Pretty Vicious – the fourth studio album from British rock band The Struts, who leaned heavily into their classic rock inspirations for their first album in three years.
That much is evident in standout new single I Won’t Run, which makes the most of anthemic guitar jangles, hair-raising progressions and an awe-inspiring Spiringsteenian arrangement. There’s also a very, very tasty guitar solo – filled with spine-tingling bends and scale licks – courtesy of Adam Slack. (MO)
Also on this week’s playlist…
- Sophie Lloyd – Judge and Jury (feat. Tyler Connolly)
- Sleater-Kinney – Say It Like You Mean It
- Hurray For The Riff Raff – Alibi
- SHYLMAGOGHNAR – Infinion
- Tiny Habits – Small Enough
- HAWXX – Death Makes Sisters of Us All
- Cardinals – Roseland
- Bloomsday – Where I End and You Begin
- Jason Blake – An Aversion to Fervor
- Quinn Sullivan – Salvation (Make Me Wanna Pray)