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From euphoric post-rock to gritty, overdriven blues: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Kim Thayil
(Image credit: The Pretty Reckless/YouTube)

Hear ye, hear ye. As we do every Thursday, we’ve assembled some of the guitar’s greatest innovators and practitioners to display their latest creations. A weekly World’s Fair of new guitar music, if you like.

In one corner, we have a refreshing bit of fingerpickin’ pop bliss from Lindsey Buckingham, in another we have some euphoric, captivating post-rock from Deafheaven. 

Look further, and you’ll see a decidedly out-of-left-field, metal-heavy reimagining of the pop classic Right Here Waiting from Matt Heafy and Richard Marx, and a scrappy power-pop gem from The Front Bottoms.

Explore all that and more in our roundup below.

The Pretty Reckless - Only Love Can Save Me Now (Feat. Matt Cameron & Kim Thayil)

Taylor Momsen has made no secret of her love for Soundgarden, but this collaboration with two of the architects of the Seattle sound must have exceeded even her expectations.

Kim Thayil – whose beard has only grown more resplendent over lockdown – has said Only Love Can Save Me Now’s riff wouldn’t feel out of place on Louder Than Love, and he ain’t wrong: a writhing 7/4 juggernaut, it bears all the hallmarks of classic Soundgarden, but in actual fact originated from Pretty Reckless lead guitarist Ben Phillips.

Thayil makes the track his own, however, when it comes to his searing wah solo, which lasts for nigh-on a full minute – surely second only to Like Suicide as his longest lead on record. What’s more, his off-the-cuff licks take an altogether thrashier turn as the track hurtles into a breakneck double-time passage.

Throw in Taylor Momsen’s Chris Cornell-aping howls and you’ve got the closest thing to new Soundgarden music we’re likely to hear this side of the ongoing legal tussle over Cornell’s final recordings. (MAB)

Lindsey Buckingham – I Don’t Mind 

Given that he was forced to undergo life-saving open heart surgery in 2019, it’s wonderful to see Lindsey Buckingham making music again. 

If I Don’t Mind, the lead single from his upcoming self-titled solo album, is any indication of Buckingham’s form, the man hasn’t lost a single step, even as his career enters its sixth decade. 

Buckingham is one of the great chorus specialists of ours or any age, and the one he crafts for I Don’t Mind hits like a laser, buoyed by perfect hooks and some oh-so Buckingham-esque studio trickery.

All these years later, there’s still no guitarist on earth who plays quite like the Fleetwood Mac legend – that restless, circular acoustic-electric fingerpicking so rich in melody, emotional expression and rhythmic drive. It’s made his tunes stand out on the radio for almost 50 years now, and will do the same for I Don’t Mind when it inevitably begins making rounds on the airwaves. (JM)

Matthew K. Heafy – Right Here Waiting (feat. Richard Marx)

Trivium head honcho and YouTube/Twitch extraordinaire Matt Heafy is no stranger to collaboration. From guest vocals on DragonForce’s 2014 album Maximum Overload to his 5-track 2020 EP with Jared Dines, his list of musical credits beyond the realm of Trivium is far-reaching and rarely has us surprised. 

The news of his latest partnership, however, was enough to make us spit out our coffee and do a double take.

Yes, Matt Heafy – the man who sings In Waves, A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation, Shogun and a host of other metal bangers – has teamed up with pop icon Richard Marx for a reimagining of his 1989 classic, Right Here Waiting.

Trivium purists, stand at ease: Heafy’s metal influence has gotten the better of Marx on this occasion. The track’s once serene strings, synth pads and shakers have been booted in place of machine gun-esque kick drums and a cornucopia of riffs and overdriven shred. It has our stamp of approval. (SR)

Flea & John Frusciante - Not Great Men

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a lot of history with late post-punk legend Andy Gill. Not only were Gang of Four a formative influence for the LA funk outfit, but Gill also produced the band’s 1984 self-titled debut.

So you really couldn’t ask for a more perfect pair of players to lend their talents to the just-released Gill tribute album, The Problem of Leisure, than Flea – who played on the aforementioned debut – and returning Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante.

Not Great Men marks the pair’s first recording together in over a decade. Listening now, Gang of Four’s 1979 original already sounds like proto-RHCP, but Flea and Frusciante nudge it over the line with the funk-punk fusion they moulded during the band’s early years.

Naturally, Flea slaps and pops his way through the original’s angular bassline, but it’s Frusciante’s staccato, lightly overdriven tone that really gets the nostalgia kicking. Whether this old-school approach is a sign of things to come from RHCP’s forthcoming album or not, it’s a fitting tribute not only to Gill but the legacy he leaves behind. (MAB)

Laura Stevenson – State

State, the opening cut and first single from Laura Stevenson’s upcoming self-titled album – her sixth solo effort to date – hits like one of the baseball bats used to great effect in the song’s music video. 

As a creeping riff sets the tone in the song’s intro, eerie strings dance in unsettling arcs around the song’s perimeter in a way that recalls John Cale’s discordant viola work with the Velvet Underground. 

That is, of course, before State explodes into a bludgeoning chorus where finding the beautifully composed, tension-building guitar leads amidst the tornado of distorted rhythm work becomes a wonderful easter egg hunt that’ll keep you coming back for further listens.

Written about a loved one who was hurt and nearly killed by someone – and Stevenson’s subsequent rage about what occurred – State seethes beautifully before pouncing when you least expect it. (JM) 

Deafheaven – Great Mass of Color

Great Mass of Color could be a fitting title for just about all of Deafheaven’s material. A band never afraid to color outside the lines – occasionally to the chagrin of genre purists – each new release paints heavy music in their own distinctive, and often unpredictable, palette.

The first single to be taken from forthcoming fifth album Infinite Granite is no exception, although its euphoric post-rock stylings are more laser-focused than previous efforts – and the appearance of uber-producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen can likely account for the band’s more direct approach.

Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra are masters of expansive guitar tones – whether lathered in delay feedback or not – and they take their craft to new heights here, with spacious phased lines and some gorgeous interweaving arpeggios, before a colossal tremolo-picked outro brings proceedings to a thunderous conclusion. (MAB)

Jared James Nichols – Skin ‘n Bone

Jared James Nichols has to be up there with the busiest blues artists of the past year. In the space of 12 months, the six-string ace has launched a brand-new Goldtop version of his Epiphone “Old Glory” signature model – cleverly dubbed “Gold Glory” – appeared on this year’s Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation’s stream-a-thon, and even set out to restore one of the first Gibson Les Pauls ever made.

And he’s not stopping just yet, as he’s just announced a brand-new EP – Shadow Dancer – and shared its gritty debut single, Skin ‘n Bone.

In typical JJN fashion, the fresh cut features a brooding array of tastefully dialed, brilliantly delivered overdriven guitar lines, with low-register riffs and upper-fretboard noodles receiving equal amounts of the blues-rocker’s attention.

Fans of the guitarist’s lead work will be pleased: there’s a superbly executed, quintessentially bluesy guitar solo to be enjoyed around the 2:07 mark, in which Nichols lets rip with a flurry of howling, bend-heavy licks. (SR)

The Front Bottoms – Voodoo Magic (Feat. Matt Skiba)

Enlisting the help of Blink-182 guitar hero Matt Skiba, The Front Bottoms’ latest punk-fueled single is everything you could ever want and more, and boasts the same effortless charm that populates the majority – if not all – of the duo’s discography.

Favoring a rollercoaster-like sense of temporal urgency distilled by way of a three-beats-and-we’re-off intro, Voodoo Magic takes you on a two-and-a-half-minute ride, layering on gain-drenched powerchords, fuzzy lead lines and supporting acoustic strums that are panned to the sweet spot so you can just about hear the pick as it races across the strings.

Skiba’s six-string influences are all over Voodoo Magic, too, in both its composition and execution. Decorating the track with tasty vocal-shadowing single-string phrases and punctuating it with precise strumming patterns, the ensemble put on a show that will have you reaching for the replay button before it's even finished.

A punk pairing made in heaven? Quite possibly. The result? A fitting pre-weekend romp that deserves to be played full-blast as the working week comes to a close. (MO)

Crypta – Dark Night of the Soul

The third single from forthcoming debut studio album Echoes of the Soul, Crypta’s Dark Night of the Soul plays host to about as much tremolo picking as anyone can withstand in one five-minute sitting.

Guitarists Sonia Anubis and Tainá Bergamaschi serve up a plentiful supply of death-style six-string lines, underpinned by the thunderous stickwork of drummer Luana Dametto and the furious vocals of Fernanda Lira.

The track follows previously released singles Starvation and From the Ashes, which both see the guitar work of Anubis and Bergamaschi placed center stage. One thing’s for sure: the album’s sure to be one of the most exciting death-metal LPs of the year. (SR)