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From riff-tastic sledgehammers to serene acoustic beauty: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

My Morning Jacket perform at Forest Hills Stadium on September 10, 2021 in New York City
(Image credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage)

A job’s a job at the end of the day, but getting to comb through the wide world of music for its best guitar moments to share with you is a privilege we relish in every week.

With that in mind, we’ve been like kids in a candy store in recent days, taking in an acoustic-driven beauty from Ásgeir, some perfect guitar-pop from MUNA and Phoebe Bridgers, a riff-tastic sledgehammer from Bullet For My Valentine, a psychedelic new single from My Morning Jacket, and a whole lot more.

My Morning Jacket - Love Love Love

Jim James and co are back with their first new material since 2015’s Grammy-nominated The Waterfall, and Love, Love, Love’s ode to positivity is a breath of fresh ’70s psych air.

We love the interplay between Carl Broemel’s chugging rhythms and James’s chiming cleans, but of particular interest to our collective ears is a full one-minute voyage of a JJ wiry fuzz wigout, which brings the track to its blissed-out conclusion.

Perhaps now we’ll finally see the release of that signature ES-345 Gibson teased way back in July 2019… (MAB)

Bullet For My Valentine – Shatter

The third track from Bullet For My Valentine’s upcoming eponymous seventh studio album, Shatter is a sonic freight train pummeling down the track paved by the album’s first two singles.

While Shatter features markedly more subdued verse sections than the heavier-than-hell Knives, and the unrelenting Parasite, it takes the band further down their newfound path toward the heavier side of heavy metal.

From a guitar perspective, the track primarily focuses on the riffier side of things – the band describes it as “an absolute sledgehammer of a track with riffs for days” – however lead shredder Michael “Padge” Paget ensures solo-loving fans aren’t left hungry, with a dizzying lead over a backdrop of anthemic and melodic chant vocals. (SR)

Biffy Clyro – Unknown Male 01 

We weren’t expecting it, but the surprise announcement of Biffy Clyro’s upcoming album, The Myth Of Happily Ever After, was welcomed with open arms, and the Scottish alt-rock titans’ new single, Unknown Male 01, was enthusiastically lapped up.

Though the three-piece only released their last album, A Celebration Of Endings, in August last year, it should be common knowledge by now that they never run out of creative steam. If their new single is anything to go by, that aforementioned steam may have just reached new heights.

It takes a while for the electric guitar to make its initial entry, but the six-string soon layers up Simon Neil’s vocals and the swelling organ sounds by way of some fully formed, subtly bite-y chords that, after a brief hiatus, reemerge with some pounding drums and a new sense of urgency.

It’s a sense of urgency that, by the two minute mark, reveals just what Biffy had in store: a battering, riff-laden thrash-a-thon that delicately juggles its role as both an ethereal soft rock anthem and a bombarding high-gain bruiser.

Pay attention, folks. The best of Biff may be just around the corner. (MO)

The War On Drugs feat. Lucius – I Don't Live Here Anymore

If you only read the lyrics to I Don't Live Here Anymore the second single from the forthcoming album of the same name by Philly indie stalwarts The War on Drugs – it’d probably take you awhile to guess what the song actually sounds like.

Describing himself, in a sly nod to one of his heroes, as a “creature void of form,” frontman and guitarist Adam Granduciel is riddled with anxiety and listlessness.

Musically though, it’s a whole different story. Armed with his favorite Fender offsets, Granduciel fires off the sort of triumphantly melodic, reverb-drenched leads you’d expect to hear in an ‘80s sports drama, as someone runs in slow motion around the bases after a home run, or towards the end zone for a crucial touchdown.

Setting those leads against the backdrop of pulsing synths, thundering drums, and an almost gospel-like chorus (with assistance from special guests Lucius), Granduciel leans heavily into his heartland rock influences. 

Ultimately though, with its perfect blend of classic rock muscle and vulnerable, deeply affecting lyrics, I Don't Live Here Anymore is the perfect introduction to this band, and an example of why they’ve risen from headlining small clubs to arenas over the past decade. (JM) 

Billy Talent – End of Me (feat. Rivers Cuomo)

Canadian rockers Billy Talent wrote their latest single with the working title, Hendrix + Weezer, and it's evident why. Opening with an ultra-melodic, Hendrixian-style lick, the track takes an almost bluesy turn in the first verse with some clean guitar stabs, before employing huge-sounding powerchords and vocal harmonies reminiscent of pop-rock greats like Green Day, Fall Out Boy and, well, Weezer.

As the band explain, “it only felt right to ask [Weezer frontman] Rivers [Cuomo] to sing” on the track. “We’ve admired and have been fans of Weezer since the Blue Album until now... The song encompasses the essence of ‘90s alt-rock which was a hugely impactful and influential time for our band. We’re proud of the song and very happy to have Rivers be a part of it.” (SR)

Ásgeir – The Sky Is Painted Grey Today 

Open-tuning acoustic musings providing booming, heart string-pulling chordal constructions and a sumptuous lyrical tapestry that weaves its way throughout out the stripped-back sonic arrangement head up Ásgeir’s The Sky Is Painted Grey Today – the title track from his new EP.

The Icelandic singer-songwriter, criminally underrated by many, has a devastating ability to pick you up at the beginning of the song and drop you emotionally exhausted at the end, and his latest track is no exception.

Likening emotional strife to a weather-ripped boat struggling to fend off the crushing waves by way of some magnificently simple yet overwhelmingly emotive vocal/guitar interplay, Ásgeir serves up a powerful singer-songwriting masterclass, delivering both a beautiful, swelling acoustic part and gorgeous vocal melody.

For some, it takes a wall of post-production soundscapes, a choir-esque vocal arrangement and swollen instrumentation to pack such a highly emotive punch. Ásgeir does it all with just his voice and a guitar, with the delicacy of a scalpel and the emotional impact of a sledgehammer. (MO)

MUNA feat. Phoebe Bridgers – Silk Chiffon

Described by the band’s producer and guitarist, Naomi McPherson, as “a song for kids to have their first gay kiss to,” MUNA’s Silk Chiffon is as sleek, catchy and downright fun a guitar-pop anthem as we’ve heard all year. 

Guitar-wise, McPherson and bandmates Katie Gavin and Josette Maskin don’t waste a note, setting the tempo with sunny acoustic strums from the word go, while delivering plenty of six-string ear candy – like the punky, distorted staccato stabs that power Phoebe Bridgers’ perfect guest verse – throughout.

Now signed to Bridgers’ Saddest Factory label, Silk Chiffon shows MUNA primed for what may be as massive a pop breakthrough as Bridgers’ own over the past year. (JM)

Eric Bibb – Dear America 

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who, in recent times, has used their music to pick apart some of today’s most pressing social issues as effectively as Eric Bibb has. No stranger to using the blues to convey his message, Bibb’s latest release, Dear America, is perhaps his most powerful work to date.

Featuring an introductory, tone-setting recital of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote and Bibb’s trademark style of lick-laden blues guitar, Dear America doesn’t shy away from America’s most prevalent civil issues, and instead addresses them head on.

“On the one hand to be called your citizen / On the other hand, to be excluded ‘cos of the color of my skin,” Bibb sings at one point. “When we gonna make amends like Germany after WWII,” he sings in another.

Come for those sumptuous blues lines, stay for the powerfully charged vocals and masterfully crafted lyrics. It’s undoubtedly Bibb at his best, and Dear America packs one helluva punch. (MO)

Foxanne – I Could Go On

Last year’s debut album from Foxanne, It's real (I knew it), was a delightful explosion of tuneful indie-pop – loaded with exuberant hooks and buzzy riffs for days. 

Now Foxanne, the project of singer/songwriter/guitarist Chelsea Gohd, is back with a new standalone single, a cosmic soul stunner called I Could Go On.

“Cosmic soul?” Well, the cosmic end comes from the song’s Epiphone-powered, vibrato-rich guitar leads, which cry out with a yearning, longing and loneliness that echo some of the song’s more celestially-minded lyrics (“Everything is us, as stardust fades away”) and its music video, which was filmed at the Liberty Science Center’s Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium in New Jersey.

The soul end comes from the warm keys, the perfectly grooving bass line and, of course, Foxanne’s vocals, which – whether she’s powering with gusto through the song’s cathartic chorus or sailing sweetly through the verses – are as powerful as ever. 

A great song can often serve one more than purpose for its listener, depending on how they approach it. To that end, I Could Go On is equally great as a ‘give me the energy to get through the day’ or a ‘don’t bother me while I’m brooding and staring at the stars’ song, and as anything and everything else in between. (JM)