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…
Mick Mars – Loyal to the Lie
For his first solo single since all that Mötley Crüe business, Mick Mars veers into heavier territory than perhaps anything we’ve heard from him before.
Opening with a riff that sounds closer to the grunge anthems that killed the hair-metal era, Loyal to the Lie is a driving slice of metal-tinged hard-rock, complete with an eerie, vibrato-heavy solo, and the whole thing is amped up to 11 by Korn drummer Ray Luzier’s pummeling performance on the kit.
In an exclusive interview with Guitar World this week, Mars indicated he has plenty more material in the works. “I had to do stuff with Mötley… now it’s my time!” he told us. “In fact, I’m already working on my next album. Why stop the momentum, right?!” (MAB)
The Beatles – Now and Then
We’ve long thought that this Liverpool quartet has a bright future ahead of them, and their new single… OK, all jokes aside, the uncovering and completion of what’s being referred to as definitively the “last Beatles song” is such A Big Deal™️ that its very release always threatened to overshadow the song itself. So what does the final offering from the Fab Four – only two of whom are still with us – actually bring to the table?
Well, if you have any kind of soft spot in your heart for the biggest pop group of all time, Now and Then will surely tug at the ol’ heartstrings. Built on vocals recorded by John Lennon in the late ‘70s, with instrumental contributions (recorded both in the mid ‘90s and 2022) from George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the song does have a taste of that inscrutable Beatles magic.
McCartney’s elegant arrangements are as moving as ever, with his evocative slide solo – a tip of the cap to the late slide ace Harrison – serving as the perfect coda to the catalog of the world’s most successful and influential band. (JM)
Spiritbox – Ultraviolet
It’s been mere weeks since Spiritbox dropped Cellar Door – aka, “arguably their heaviest track” in over three years – but the metallers have now promptly returned with Ultraviolet, an anthemic riff fest that doubles as yet another masterclass from resident guitar hero Mike Stringer.
Those awe-inspiring chorus progression are absolutely huge – enough to raise the hairs on your neck – and Stringer’s deft lead layers are sweet beyond belief. (MO)
Career Woman – No Alibi
No Alibi is the new standalone single from 19-year-old Melody Caudill, who records under the moniker of Career Woman. It’s got plenty of classic volume and grit, but No Alibi isn’t the work of yet another artist beholden to the Bush Sr./Clinton-era indie classics; the widescreen choruses are more country than Superchunk, the riff-heavy break after the second chorus more mall-punk than Matador Records.
You can’t fake songwriting chops either, and Caudill’s are more than evident throughout No Alibi. (JM)
Deap Vally – Ventilator Blues
Recorded way back in 2014, this sleazy cover of the Rolling Stones deep cut provides something of a fitting swansong for the LA rock duo, who are calling it quits after their farewell tour, which kicks off later this month.
Their take on Ventilator Blues is a reminder of what we’ll be missing: a gritty, no-nonsense take on rock ’n’ roll with gnarly tones and a swaggering delivery. RIP DV. (MAB)
Cloud Nothings – Final Summer
The perfect autumnal reckoning from Dylan Baldi and company, with a two-and-a-half-minute driving, cathartic blast from the indie stalwarts. The guitars are densely woven, stabbing in and out of muted sequences and arpeggios, before cleverly giving way to make the most of a Mellotron-like solo. (MP)
Helen Ibe – Joy
Who the hell needs lyrics when you can play like Helen Ibe? The Nigerian guitarist’s new single is called Joy, and it’s… well, exactly that. The song’s low-end is slamming, but the star attraction by far and away is Ibe’s phrasing. It’s not just smooth, it’s incredibly dynamic – murmuring at points and swelling at others – without ever dwarfing the song entirely. Dazzling stuff. (JM)
Unprocessed – Glass
Another new release, yet another opportunity to be blown away by Manuel Gardner Fernandes, whose incomprehensible fretboard powers are completely and utterly untethered in Glass.
The prog-metal outfit have had a prolific few months, having released what they called “the ultimate composite of everything Unprocessed has ever created” not two months ago.
For our two cents, though, Glass is just as (if not more) impactful than Thrashed, with an absurdly mind-boggling tap harmonic intro and melody hook that we couldn’t even dream of being able to play. (MO)
Iron Axxis – Way of the Warrior
Anupam Shobhakar is no ordinary shredder. Wielding seven- and eight-string fretted and fretless electrics, the intrepid guitarist aims to fuse the technicality of ’80s virtuosos with modern metal influences.
But for the new single from Iron Axxis – his power duo with bassist Phil Duke – Shobhakar pays homage to Eddie Van Halen, Way of the Warrior’s namesake hero. Sonically, the track is closer to Dream Theater than Van Halen, but there are some neat tips of the hat to Eddie, with some playful bends and whammy bar horse whinnies, while the track also crosses into Vai-esque meditative phrases and Holdsworthian scalic runs.
In another nod to the fallen guitar hero, the song’s video was filmed off the Pacific Coast in Malibu, California, where EVH built his iconic 5150 studio and where his ashes were ultimately scattered. (MAB)
Also on this week’s playlist…
- Momma – Sunday
- Narrow Head – Medicine
- Sharon Van Etten – Close to You
- TORRES – I got the fear
- Divorce – Eat My Words