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From "solo insanity" to gossamer funk guitar bliss: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Samantha Fish
(Image credit: Jesse Wild/Future)

We apologize for the absence of this column last week, dear readers, for we were attending to Summer NAMM and the deluge of new guitar gear that came with it.

Of course, there was plenty of new guitar-driven music during that time too, the best of which we’ve corralled here for your listening pleasure.

On the menu today is George Lynch’s flirtation with “solo insanity,” the epic return of Iron Maiden, some gossamer funk guitar bliss from Keb Mo,’ a down-tuned, time signature-shifting rocker from Thrice, and more.

So drop your bucket into this well of inspired guitar goodness. You’re sure to come away feeling refreshed.

Samantha Fish – Twisted Ambition

For her new album, Faster, Samantha Fish teamed up with producer Martin Kierszenbaum, whose resumé includes work with the likes of Lady Gaga and Sting.

Now, before you begin to shudder in fear of this top-shelf pop producer robbing Fish of some of the raw magic that’s made her one of the world’s preeminent living blues guitarists, give Faster’s first single, Twisted Ambition, a spin.

Yes, there are some place-setting, pulsing synths, but Fish’s army of Gibson guitars – a Firebird, a Les Paul and, of course, her trusty Alpine White Gibson SG – see plenty of action too, unleashing the swaggering riff that defines the song (which Fish says is about “taking control and owning your life and owning the situation” when “the world or a personal figure might be putting you down”) and its volcanic solo.

With a hugely cathartic and catchy chorus to top it all off, Twisted Ambition is a sign that Fish is ready to take things to the next level, audience-wise, but only on her own, fretboard fireworks-heavy terms. (JM)

Coheed and Cambria – Shoulders 

In their first release in almost three years, subgenre-traversing rockers Coheed and Cambria have come out swinging. From the get-go, guitarists Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever kick things into gear with a hammer-on/pull-off-laden riff, before drummer Josh Eppard and bassist Zach Cooper enter the fray, forming a groove that’ll get anyone nodding along.

It’s more than likely that Shoulders will appear on the band’s much-talked-about, yet little-known-about new album, which Sanchez describes as a “modern record”.

“After making music for so long and entering a pandemic,” he explains, “we didn't want limitations to the creative process. The [next] record is going to be what I hope people perceive this band to be in 2021/2022... It's a Coheed and Cambria record, but it's looking forward, not backwards.”

Oh, and fair warning: listening to the chorus of Shoulders once is enough for it to embed itself in your head for the foreseeable future. Good thing it’s killer, eh? (SR)

Thrice – Scavengers

After graduating from the early-Noughties post-hardcore scene, Thrice have gone on to become one of alternative rock’s most expansive and dynamic bands.

Scavengers is a typically explosive single taken from forthcoming 11th studio effort, Horizons/East, and underlines the band’s increasing confidence in groove and texture, as Dustin Kensrue and Teppei Teranishi lean on a gnarly single-note riff that builds to an incendiary chorus in 7/4 time.

Scavengers serves as something of a refinement of the Thrice formula, but as is often the case with the California outfit’s lead-off singles, it could prove something of a Trojan horse, as Horizons/East is said to feature jazz-inspired quartal chords and riffs inspired by – what else – the Fibonacci sequence. (MAB)

Iron Maiden – The Writing On The Wall

Their first new song in six years, The Writing On The Wall sees British heavy metal titans Iron Maiden in fine form, as per. Arguably less heavy than some standouts from their now-gargantuan back catalog, the track sees guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers deliver a series of almost-country-inspired licks – in addition to their typical hard rock stylings.

Of course, what’s an Iron Maiden song without dueling guitars and the odd guitar solo or three? The Smith/Murray/Gers trifecta is on hand to deliver, with everything from 3:44 onwards a lead guitar masterclass. (SR)

George Lynch – Death By A Thousand Licks

It’s amazing that – given his seemingly endless cascade of new projects and explorations of new musical frontiers – George Lynch is only just now releasing his first all-instrumental solo album, Seamless.

Described, quite accurately, by the man himself as “a vehicle for solo insanity,” the album’s first single, Death By A Thousand Licks, is a sub-three-minute roller-coaster ride through many of the gonzo guitar techniques that made Lynch famous.

Unstoppable torrents of harmonics, nervy but powerful high-gain riffing, off-the-cuff light-speed tapping and lead runs… the man – now entering the sixth decade of his career – hasn’t lost a single step.

More importantly though, all these years later, Lynch’s improvisations are still punctuated with the uninhibited joy of someone who can still be inspired to – to borrow another one of his descriptions of this tune – do something “maniacal” with the guitar. (JM)

The War on Drugs – Living Proof

At last, after four long years without any new War on Drugs music, the American indie-rock outfit have returned to the scene with the best news possible – a new studio album, their first since 2017’s Grammy Award-winning A Deeper Understanding, is currently in the works.

Better still, the six-piece shared the record’s serenely smooth lead single, Living Proof, which reacquaints us with their sonic universe by way of some exquisitely composed acoustic guitar lines and vocals. 

Described as an example of the band’s extemporaneously magical chemistry, the track breezes along with an ethereal personality thanks to some cinematic piano chords and wispy strums, which build and swell, until the electric guitar makes its long-awaited entry with one of the simplest, yet gorgeously constructed, solos from the band’s celebrated repertoire.

We’d wager there will be a fair few up-tempo head-bangers, generational indie-rock riffs and oversized hooks you’ll be humming to yourself for days on end hidden among the upcoming effort’s 10-string tracklist, though, for now, Living Proof is everything you could want from a War on Drugs single and more. (MO)

Tremonti – If Not For You

Whether he’s pumping out molten riffage with Alter Bridge or laying down chunky powerchords with Creed, Mark Tremonti is one of modern rock’s most bankable six-stringers, and this latest track is another blockbuster smash.

Certainly, Tremonti and co-guitarist Eric Friedman’s tones have never been chunkier, with meaty ascending powerchords flanked by a descending lead line – and there’s more PRS in that video than you can shake an SE at.

Yet it’s Tremonti’s irrepressible desire to work on his already-formidable playing that continues to make him such an enthralling soloist, and the three-and-a-half-minute mark brings a lead that’s simultaneously rooted in blues and propelled by shred – typical of the approach of GW’s 2010-2019 guitarist of the decade. (MAB)

Underoath – Damn Excuses

Underoath’s most recent album, the Grammy-nominated Erase Me, was a total masterclass in modern metal. So naturally, we were stoked when we heard the Florida six-piece had dropped their new single, Damn Excuses.

Recorded at guitarist Timothy McTague’s Tampa studio Feral Sound, the track doesn’t beat around the bush, shifting gears 30 seconds in into a groove driven by drop-tuned riff work, pummeling drums and the killer vocals of frontman Spencer Chamberlain.

“This song came out of nowhere for us,” keyboardist Chris Dudley explains. “In hindsight, it probably stems emotionally from the anxiousness that a year of isolation will give you, and that ‘wanting-to-explode’ feeling came out with zero effort. It was therapeutic. This is us ready to get back into a loud room with sweaty people and experience something real together.” (SR)

The Linda Lindas – Oh!

Having just about broken the internet with an explosive performance of their ferocious song Racist Sexist Boy at the Los Angeles Public Library (getting themselves a record deal with Epitaph in the process), L.A. quartet The Linda Lindas are back with a new single, the infectious Oh!

Serving up the best platter of buzzsaw guitars, metronomic drumming and bubblegum hooks since the the Ramones walked the earth, Oh! is a remarkably cohesive statement from a group whose members range in age from 10 (!) to 16.

In recent months, everyone from Machine Gun Kelly to Willow Smith and Olivia Rodrigo have taken punk’s musical stylings back to preeminence on the charts and on the radio. 

There’s no reason to think – with their obvious talent, spunk and already-wide range of enthusiastic endorsements – that The Linda Lindas won’t follow in their footsteps at some point. (JM)

Keb’ Mo’ – Sunny and Warm

It’s as if mother nature sensed the return of Keb’ Mo’, what with his easygoing new single Sunny and Warm conveying all the sunshine and warmth we’re currently experiencing. 

The prolific blues titan’s first new music since his 2019 effort Moonlight, Mistletoe & You, Sunny and Warm is classic Keb’, featuring some gorgeous instrumentation, easy-listening lyrics and a sway-inducing sensation cemented by some subtle shakers and bongo beats.

Sitting atop the whirly organs and cinematic string soundscapes is Mo’s guitar, which takes a humble backseat as it reels off some treble-y chord slides and snaps. The Grammy Award-winning artist then ups the ante with an oh-so silky solo that raises the heat courtesy of some tasty chromatic licks and pentatonic runs.

The soundtrack of the summer? Quite possibly. No matter what, it’s a surefire, set-in-stone single that deserves to make its way onto your playlists for the latter half of the year. (MO)

Indigo De Souza – Hold U

Don’t let the track’s laidback synth and drum machine opener fool you: this single from the Saddle Creek singer-songwriter is a funk-pop guitar banger.

With lithe low-string lines that mirror the infectious vocal line, and a euphoric vibe reinforced by clean chordal chimes and lashings of shimmer reverb, Hold U sounds like the missing link between Nile Rodgers and the Strokes – and that’s a fusion we can most definitely get behind. (MAB)

The Lazy Eyes – The Island

The psychedelic scene is filled with an abundance of promising up-and-coming groups, each of whom seek to stake their claim as one of the genre’s most formidable prospects, worthy of “The Next Big Thing” mantle. If new single The Island is anything to go by, Aussie four-piece The Lazy Eyes are up there with some of the best, and have as much a claim to it as anyone else currently around.

Their relatively stripped-back instrumentation, which feels somewhat like a deliberately constructed sonic jigsaw, packs a pretty potent psych-inspired punch, and has everything fans of the genre could want. Whirly synths, Tame Impala-esque vocals and modulated guitars all make the cut, as does a riotous, fuzz-laden epilogue that transforms the track from a breezy romp into an ominous chug-a-thon.

Lucky for us, there's more where that came from, as the band has also recently released their second EP, EP2. (MO)