From textured pop-punk to Americana that cuts deep: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Meet Me @ The Altar perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in New York City on January 19, 2023
(Image credit: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

Welcome to Guitar World’s weekly roundup of the musical highlights from the, erm, world of guitar. 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.

Covet – Firebird

What is it? The most infectious song yet from the Yvette Young-led instrumental troupe, taken from forthcoming third album, Catharsis. Chock-full of the juiciest transparent overdrive tones you ever did hear, Firebird is led, as always, by Young’s ear for riffs that team wistful melodies with jaw-dropping guitar technique.

Standout guitar moment: That main hook is as earworm-y as Covet have ever been, but we are all about the dreamy delay tones in the track’s middle eight, followed up by a gnarly fuzz guitar solo performed – where else? – on the edge of a cliff. Love to see it.

For fans of: Plini, Chon, Standards

– Michael Astley-Brown

Inhaler – So Far So Good 

What is it? Last week, Irish rock band Inhaler – fronted by son of U2’s Bono, Elijah Hewson – dropped their second studio album, Cuts & Bruises, which continued the band’s stratospheric ascent to the top of the indie rock scene. 

Wasting no time getting down to business, Cuts & Bruises quickly arrives at So Far So Good – a classically constructed Inhaler romp underpinned by Hewson’s Bono-esque vocals and multiple layers of tastefully dialed-in guitars, from moody verse power chords to untethered chorus strums.

Standout guitar moment: So Far So Good reaches its infectious peak after the chorus, when the guitar’s lead lick – and the song’s main melodic hook – arrives, charging the track with a beat-skipping pentatonic turnaround.

For fans of: U2, Kings of Leon, Circa Waves

– Matt Owen

Meet Me @ The Altar – Kool

What is it? The brattiness, power chords and gut-punch hooks of suburban mall pop-punk have been back in vogue for awhile at this point, but it feels like a lot of the artists who’ve reached back into memories of their Hot Topic days for inspiration in recent times have missed the essence of what made the genre so influential in the first place. Meet Me @ The Altar, however, have an intuitive sense of the difference between a catchy pop-punk song and a magical one. And Kool, the new single from the trio’s forthcoming LP, Past // Present // Future, really is magical.

Standout guitar moment: The crunch of Kool’s none-simpler riff is incredibly satisfying, but the stylish phaser wash that enters the picture ‘round about 1:45 is a perfect example of how guitarist Téa Campbell brilliantly injects texture and depth into the band’s brawny attack.

For fans of: Green Day, blink-182, Paramore

Jackson Maxwell

Vandenberg – House on Fire

What is it? Adrian Vandenberg – he of Whitesnake fame – is back with another slice of hard-rockin’ riffs, wailing pinch harmonics and fiery lead playing. House on Fire delivers and then some, Vandenberg’s rumbling vocals adding extra menace to the grade-A riffery.

Standout guitar moment: There are some neat ideas in that solo, and some tasteful melodic runs that highlight Vandenberg’s meticulous approach to leads. And yes, there are plenty of pinches.

For fans of: Glenn Hughes, Whitesnake, Michael Schenker

– Michael Astley-Brown

FIDLAR – Centipede 

What is it? Punk and garage rock outfit FIDLAR have had a quiet few years, having last released new music back in 2019 in the form of Almost Free – their third studio album. Now, though, the quartet are back in the swing of things, having recently announced their return to music with a string of what at first appeared to be standalone singles. 

Now, with the arrival of the equally heavy-hitting, hard-thrashing Centipede, the quartet have announced That’s Life, a new EP that will arrive next month. It’s their first project in four years, but if the recent singles are anything to go by, the wait has not been in vain.

Standout guitar moment: Centipede is FIDLAR at their feral best, and Centipede is at its best when the guitars are let loose, with the outro turning into an out-and-out head banger ignited by grizzly chords and pulsating leads.

For fans of: Weezer, Wavves, Twin Peaks

– Matt Owen

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Death Wish

What is it? A haunting, beautifully arranged rambler about love and depression that serves as the lead single from Weathervanes, the new album from Jason Isbell and his crack 400 Unit band. Like the best of Isbell’s work, Death Wish cuts deep, leaving an aftertaste that will linger long after it plays out.

Standout guitar moment: Isbell and 400 Unit guitarist Sadler Vaden can cut loose with the best of them, but Death Wish – dealing as it does with heavy topics – needs space to breathe. With that in mind, the eight-bar break right before the final chorus bites, bends, and says all it needs to say before ceding the spotlight back to the lyrics.

For fans of: Drive-By Truckers, Neil Young, Steve Earle

Jackson Maxwell

Theo Katzman – She’s In My Shoe 

What is it? The latest solo single from Vulfpeck vocalist, guitarist and songwriting extraordinaire Theo Katzman, who has channeled his supreme grasp on playful lyricism, instrumentation, chord progressions and soulful six-string know-how into She’s In My Shoe. Sitting at just over the four minute mark, the song bobs along with an infectious liveliness, carried by a smooth acoustic line that receives sparing-yet-impactful support from percussion and bass. 

Standout guitar moment: That acoustic guitar progression – which later morphs into an electric line – gives off serious “sitting on the front porch noodling away” vibes, and selflessly sacrifices the solo spot to the bass. Put it on in the background and that main progression is a breeze to improvise along with, too.

For fans of: Vulfpeck, The Dip, Cory Wong

– Matt Owen

The Knockouts – Stick Em Up

What is it? Kareem Denis, aka BIG K.O., is best known as producer and guitarist for Run D.M.C. legend Darryl D.M.C. McDaniels, but his production credits run deeper, spanning the likes of 50 Cent, D12 and Jim Jones. The latest single from his rap-rock outfit The Knockouts bears some of that D.M.C. DNA in its stop-start structure, while the fiery pentatonic riffs echo Tom Morello at his funkiest.

Standout guitar moment: We’ll be damned if that isn’t one of the wickedest fuzz tones we’ve heard in quite some long time.

For fans of: Tom Morello, Ayron Jones, Run D.M.C.

– Michael Astley-Brown

Graham Nash – Right Now

What is it? The lead single from Now, the first new LP from the legendary singer-songwriter in seven years. Nash is best-known for bringing a soft-rock touch to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but Right Now is tough and weathered, a defiant statement from a veteran now in his ninth decade and still rocking.

Standout guitar moment: Shane Fontayne and Thad DeBrock play the parts of Stills and Young well, shrouding Nash’s confident vocals in a coat of grimy but melodic guitar work. Their distorted, bluesy and wailing interplay – especially starting at around 2:20 – will bring While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and the best of George Harrison’s six-string dialogue with John Lennon, to mind.

For fans of: The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eagles

Jackson Maxwell

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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.