Legend of Zelda-inspired fret-burner gallops and drunken bends: This week's essential guitar tracks

Brittany Howard performs onstage
(Image credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

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…

Brittany Howard – What Now

The title track of the Alabama Shakes singer/guitarist’s upcoming solo album, What Now is incredibly funky from its opening bar, with a hypnotically grooving bass line. We’re in love, however, with the sublime fuzz tones Howard gets in the chorus – stand aside, Jack White! (JM)

Black Smoke Trigger – The Way Down

Auckland, New Zealand rockers BST make the most of their hometown surroundings in this clip for their chunky-riffing hard rocker The Way Down. As such, guitarist Charlie Wallace takes a leap of faith from Auckland's iconic Sky Tower, while simultaneously rocking a delightfully Slash-like shred-y solo. It offers a new take on the old ‘dive bomb’ technique, that’s for sure… (MP)

Dead Poet Society – I hope you hate me

LA alt-rock quartet Dead Poet Society have announced their second album, FISSION, in quite spectacular fashion. Moody, angsty and deceptively tame for much of its runtime, I hope you hate me descends into a no-holds-barred, all-out fretboard throwdown. Think Royal Blood but heavier, with electric guitars and some lithe lead hooks to boot. (MO)

Kurt Vile – Another Good Year for the Roses

Kurt Vile is back with a near six-minute epic that’s full of layers of laconic solos, meandering leads and lost thoughts captured at the second of their disappearance. “I’ll get my shit together,” he promises, but the drunken bends and woozy fuzz ambience gives the lie to the lyrics. (MP) 

DragonForce – Power of the Triforce

With its ‘all epic, all the time’ philosophy, power metal has always had a lot in common with videogames – especially after Through the Fire and the Flames became a Guitar Hero staple. The genre’s leading lights, DragonForce, lean more explicitly into their pixelated inspirations these days, and this Legend of Zelda-inspired fret-burner gallops faster than Epona after three ‘hiyas’.

Herman Li and Sam Totman bring some serious firepower to Power of the Triforce with a cascade of lithe tapping and legato runs, which bridge the gap between the chug-happy verses and big powerchord choruses.

Naturally, it’s the solos we’re here for, though, and there are plenty of multi-tracked fireworks to be had, from Totman’s precision-engineered sweeps to Li’s wacky harmonized Whammy-meets-whammy exchanges. It’s a typically awe-inspiring display of technical prowess – and that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the ’Force. (MAB)

Fucked Up – Show Friends 

Fucked Up may have been the hardcore punk band that once released an epic, hour-plus rock opera, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost sight of their scrappy roots.

Based on a relentless, dual-guitar, rockabilly-with-spikes riff, Show Friends is pure first album Clash – your mind’ll create images of young Londoners hurling rocks at cops and vandalising Thatcher posters. Just when you think you know where the whole song is going to go, however, a filthy single-note fuzz lead tears through its fabric – another example of this beloved band refusing to follow any kind of straight path. (JM) 

IDLES – Dancer

With the help of indie rock royals LCD Soundsystem, IDLES have announced TANGK – their fifth studio album, which has been previewed with raucous new single, Dancer. Dense layers of warbling guitars, pounding basslines and off-kilter motifs weave along throughout the track, before intermittently uniting in the quintessential IDLES chorus sections. (MO)

Sean Angus Watson – Treehouse Days

After a year-long hiatus, Sean Angus Watson – the YouTube guitar star who amassed over 100k subscribers using nothing but his P-90-loaded Gibson SG and ridiculously dreamy phrasing – is finally back with a new album, titled Pulled Into a Dream

Already released in its entirety, the instrumental record is a welcome return for Watson and his totally unique, ultra-melodic, quasi-improvised soloing approach. We could pick any song, but album opener Treehouse Days is especially impactful: the harmonies are to die for, the dynamics are on point, and those melodies are just heavenly. (MO)

Helado Negro – LFO (Lupe Finds Oliveros)

The first taster of Helado Negro’s new album, PHASOR, takes inspiration from Pauline Oliveros, plus – more interestingly, for us – Fender’s respected amp builder Lupe Lopez. Her legacy is literally papered (on masking tape labels) over the history of many Fender tweed amps from the ’50s. (MP)

Julie Byrne – These Days

Julie Byrne’s a hell of a songwriter and vocalist, but she’s also long been one of the most underrated fingerstyle guitarists in the game. Byrne’s cover of the Jackson Browne-via-Nico classic is simply sublime, and a vivid illustration of her skill as an interpreter and guitarist. (JM)

Beatenberg – Mine of Myself

After a slew of EPs, alternative South African indie rock outfit Beatenberg have now set their sights firmly on an album – news that will no doubt delight their fans. The Great Fire of Beatenberg will be the band’s first in five years, and its lead single, Mine of Myself, paves the way for what could be their best yet: it’s classic Beatenberg, with some tasty guitar turnarounds to carry the track, but with some expanded instrumentation and off-kilter time signatures for extra spice. (MO) 

Also on this week's playlist...

  • Mannequin Pussy – I Don’t Know You
  • Dream State – Still Dreaming
  • HotWax – High Tea
  • Ice Nine Kills – Meat & Greet
  • James Bay – All My Broken Pieces
  • Towa Bird – Drain Me!
  • Ozric Tentacles – Deep Blue Shade
  • Human Interest – All My Friends
  • Flat Black – Justice Will Be Done
  • Creeper – Further Than Forever

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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.