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From two-hand-tapped math-pop to arena-primed blues-rock: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Marcos Mena of the band Standards
(Image credit: Standards)

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.

Standards – Smile

What is it? Fresh off its live debut during the band’s recent UK tour, Smile sees Aristides-toting two-hand tapping wizard Marcos Mena and drummer Cam Mitchell, erm, tap into the poppier side of their progressive repertoire. Consistent with the rest of Standards’ output, it’s hooky as hell – and we’re always down for virtuosity you can dance to.

Standout guitar moment: Mena’s nifty over-the-fretboard chord hammer-on and pull-offs, freeing up his right hand to tap out that irresistable chorus melody.

For fans of: Hikes, Covet, Giraffes? Giraffes!

– Michael Astley-Brown

Larkin Poe – Bad Spell

What is it? The swaggering lead single from Blood Harmony, the sixth studio album from the always-exciting Nashville-based blues-rock duo featuring sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. A “female response” to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You, Bad Spell simply explodes out of the speakers.

Standout guitar moment: Armed with one of her beloved HSS Stratocasters and a dimed-out fuzz pedal, Rebecca Lovell delivers a catchy, instant-impact sledgehammer of a blues-rock riff that never wears out its welcome. It’s the sort of unstoppable refrain that’s taken plenty of other groups in the genre from clubs and small theaters to arenas, and listening to it, we can’t help but wonder if Larkin Poe will be next to make that jump…  

For fans of: The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Tedeschi Trucks Band

Jackson Maxwell

Thrice – Dead Wake

What is it? Devastating fresh material from the California alt-rock innovators following last year’s Horizons/East. A song of two halves, Dead Wake starts as a Vheissu-flavored post-hardcore anthem, traverses a brief keyboard interlude and ends up a slice of altogether apocalyptic alt-rock. Although Dead Wake is being billed as a standalone release, the band told us a Horizons/West companion record was in the works, so we wouldn’t be surprised to hear more in the coming months…

Standout guitar moment: The way Dustin Kensrue’s climactic chiming overdriven sounds play off against Teppei Teranishi’s raw unison bends is magic.

For fans of: Touché Amoré, Circa Survive, Radiohead

– Michael Astley-Brown

Malevolence – Salvation (feat. Matthew K. Heafy)

What is it? A standout track on the Sheffield, UK metalcore stalwarts’ new album, Malicious Intent. A masterclass in unbridled sonic ferocity, Salvation is brimming with pummeling mid-tempo guitar riffs, texture-laden melodic chorus sections and both a solo and some guest vocals from Trivium leader Matt Heafy.

Standout guitar moment: Heafy never misses with his leads, and this one is no exception. From the 1:42 mark, the Trivium man offers up a bounty of winding melodies and two-handed tapping wizardry, proving once again that he’s one of the best in the biz.

For fans of: Trivium, Stray From the Path, Venom Prison

Sam Roche

Foals – 2001 

What is it? A funk-fueled, disco-charged bop from veteran hit-makers Foals, who are gearing up to release their new album, Life Is Yours, later this year. It’s everything you’d expect from a Foals track but more, with the band fully embracing their evolution into a disco guitar group by decking out space-y synths with gargling low-ends, snappy guitar licks and arguably the funkiest guitar drone of their whole repertoire.

Standout guitar moment: That infectious intro guitar riff is an absolute joy to listen to, and sounds as though it’s emanated straight from the fretboard of funk king Cory Wong himself.

For fans of: Royal Blood, Bloc Party, Cory Wong

– Matt Owen 

Roosevelt feat. Nile Rodgers – Passion

What is it? By enlisting the talents of a certain Mr. Nile Rodgers, German synth-pop maestro Roosevelt fulfills a longtime dream on this floor-filling new single. The result is, unsurprisingly, a disco-infused pop banger that proves Rodgers’ eternal midas touch.

Standout guitar moment: While Nile’s unmistakable syncopated Hitmaker strums drive Passion’s monster chorus, that cheeky palm-muted middle eight gives a glimpse at his underrated riff chops, too.

For fans of: Chic, Cory Wong, Daft Punk

– Michael Astley-Brown

Horsegirl – Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty)

What is it? We’ve had our eyes on this Chicago trio – whose members are barely out of high school – for awhile now. They make twisty, catchy and angular guitar-driven songs that have folks who grew up in alt-rock’s heyday going ‘well, thank god some kids these days make real music.' Unlike other buzzy young bands that have merely served as a vehicle for boomer/early millennial nostalgia and projection though, Horsegirl have talent and vision to go along with the hype, as a listen to their new single, Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty), proves in spades.

Standout guitar moment: The song’s main chord progression is highlighted by woozy bends that add a ton of color and personality to this quietly charming rocker.

For fans of: Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth, Pavement

Jackson Maxwell

Coheed and Cambria – Comatose

What is it? The fourth single from Coheed and Cambria’s highly-anticipated 10th album, Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind. Like previously released singles The Liars Club and Rise, Naianasha (Cut the Cord), Comatose boasts a light rock feel, driven by an instantly infectious major-key guitar riff.

Standout guitar moment: The track features an abundance of harmonized leads, which weave themselves around one another underneath Claudio Sanchez’s ever-catchy vocal hooks.

For fans of: Dance Gavin Dance, Billy Talent

Sam Roche

Everything Everything – Kevin’s Car  

What is it? A track lifted from UK art rock group Everything Everything’s new album, Raw Data Feel, which dropped today (May 20). Kevin’s Car is quintessential Everything Everything, and arrives from a band whose sound is deeply rooted in unorthodox six-string sonic experimentation. It’s a textural tapestry of the highest order, from the glass-like intro guitars and electro-tinged verse stabs to the extended chorus melody that pins the mix together.

Standout guitar moment: Multiple listens will reveal more and more nuanced guitar activity, but the vocal-mirroring line of the chorus is the best of the bunch, effortlessly gluing the entire track together and bringing it to life.

For fans of: Alt-J, Radiohead, Dutch Uncles 

– Matt Owen

The Fierce & the Dead – Wonderful

What is it? A fresh psych-fuzz freakout from one of the UK’s trickiest-to-pin-down instrumental rockers – except their first new music in four years isn’t actually instrumental, featuring vocal contributions from Kevin Feazey for the first time. It doesn’t dilute the band’s serrated prog edge, however, and the addition of saxophone among the sludge lends the track a certain King Crimson esoterica.

Standout guitar moment: That peak grunge-channeling chorus riff, which takes equal billing with the verse’s shoegaze-worthy washed-out chords.

For fans of: King Crimson, Haken, Steven Wilson

– Michael Astley-Brown

Def Leppard – Fire It Up

What is it? A bouncy new number from the veteran English rock outfit’s forthcoming album, Diamond Star Halos. Fire It Up finds guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell in fine form, as they serve up a bounty of swaggering and feel-good guitar riffs, and a selection of tasty leads, to boot.

Standout guitar moment: The solo from the 2:28 mark is a textbook passage of classic rock-inspired shred, featuring sky-high bends and tastefully placed alternate picking blitzes.

For fans of: Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Scorpions

Sam Roche

Caius – Care for Me (Iamalex & Felty remix) 

What is it? The latest laid-back remix from Horace Bray’s lo-fi side project, which sees him treat producer Caius' sultry beats to his smooth six-string soundscapes. Harnessing every ounce of his formal jazz education, Bray brings his A-game, souping-up the beat with some aquatic progressions, sizzling improv lines and tasty chromatic embellishments.

Standout guitar moment: A host of extended chords build up to the subtle, easy-listening solo at the 1:21 mark, which is littered with jazzy slides, colorful turnarounds and some upper-fret harmonies.

For fans of: Horace Bray, Tom Misch, Charlie Allen

– Matt Owen

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Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar (opens in new tab), Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).