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From celestial pop to sleazy neo-blues: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Manchester Orchestra
(Image credit: Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

As we hurdle toward the year mark of this pandemic, you’d find yourself in plentiful company if you’re feeling more than a little worn-out – a bit lethargic perhaps.

We’ll leave the outright cures to the scientists, (we are just guitar geeks after all) but what we can bring you are bits of guitar-heavy ear candy we’ve discovered in our digital travels that hopefully can brighten up your day a peg or two. 

On tap this week: a dense, anthemic examination of weighty themes from Manchester Orchestra, some celestial pop from Cherry Glazerr, a hard-hitting riff-fest from Gojira, a scrappy but endearing return to form from arena-rockers Kings of Leon, and much more.

We all know that feeling of raw excitement and joy you get when you hear a new piece of music that captures your imagination. So plug in – something that gives you that very feeling may just await.

Manchester Orchestra - Bed Head

One of indie-rock’s most visceral and essential bands are set to return in 2021 with sixth album The Million Masks of God, written around the longform narrative of a man’s encounter with the angel of death. Yes, the concept album is not dead in 2021!

The record is spearheaded by Bed Head, an especially anthemic take on the Andy Hull and Robert McDowell folk-meets-alt-rock songwriting formula. Dense layers of chiming guitars and spectral synths serve to underline the sheer scale of the Georgia four-piece’s ambition – and it’s testament to their continual growth that it’s very much realized. (MAB)

Gojira – Born For One Thing

It’s been almost five years since Gojira’s latest album, Magma. Eager to satiate their legion of rabid riff-hungry fans, the French metal powerhouse have announced their forthcoming album, Fortitude, and dropped a weighty new single, Born For One Thing.

The track’s quintessentially Gojira right from the off: a flurry of natural harmonic triplets kicks off proceedings, before Duplantier and co launch into a powerchord-driven, chromatic descend-laden hook à la Silvera.

Gojira purists: you’ll find little to fault in this one – it’s got all the mass, melody and bravado to tide you over until the album’s release on April 30. And gearheads: check out Joe Duplantier’s new Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas signature model in the music video above. (SR)

 Kings of Leon – Echoing 

The half-decade-long absence of Kings of Leon's massive melodies and vocal hooks has certainly been felt. However, if new track Echoing is anything to go by, it’s been worth the wait.

No need for a drum roll: drummer Nathan Followill has you covered, raking through a pumping snare line that partners an equally chugging bass part, both of which providing ample support for cousins Caleb and Matthew to conjure up a crumbly, high-gain guitar part and huge, resonating vocals, befitting of the song’s title. 

It’s a quintessential Kings of Leon track, one which sees them go back to their roots of stripped-back gain-y guitars, catchy choruses and a larger-than-life sound that will have you yearning for the return of live shows so you can see the Kings back in action.

Paired with previous singles The Bandit and 100,000 people, it looks like we’ll be in for a treat when new album When You See Yourself is released on March 5. (MO)

José González - El Invento

It’s been a full six years since José González’s last album, the stellar Vestiges & Claws, so the news of his return to the limelight is certainly welcome in our corner of the world.

The Swedish-by-way-of-Argentina singer/songwriter’s first ever Spanish-language recording, El Invento is – in a discography already bursting at the seams with recordings of pristine, Renaissance painting-like beauty – a strikingly gorgeous song.

González’s classical acoustic fingerpicking is as masterful, melodic and hypnotic as ever, and his songwriting – bolstered here by religious (though never preachy) overtones and the influence of his young daughter, Laura – has only gotten stronger and more well-rounded. (JM) 

Arielle – Peace of Mind 

After getting our first glimpse of Arielle’s new asymmetric Brian May signature model, we finally got to hear the guitar in action when the Austin-based singer-songwriter released her latest single, Peace of Mind.

Showing off the dynamic range of her new axe, Arielle coaxes us in with some panned guitars that offer up a bed of clean sounds that teeter on the brink of high-gain galore with a delicate bite that builds as the song struts along. There’s plenty going on in the mix, which sees several iterations of the same guitar line offer up slight nuances that join forces to form a vast sonic ocean for Arielle’s commanding vocals to swim in.

Arielle also demonstrates that it is quality over quantity when it comes to lead lines, with a solo that plays all the right notes in all the right places, linked together by a series of graceful slides.

Thankfully, there's more Arielle action on the way, with her new album Analog Girl In A Digital World set to come out May 7. (MO)

The Devils - Beast Must Regret Nothing (feat. Alain Johannes)

This Naples, Italy-born rock ’n’ roll duo have really stepped up their game for their third record, Beast Must Regret Nothing, helmed by prolific producer Alain Johannes – he of Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and Chris Cornell fame.

Johannes lends his distinctive cigar-box talents to this sleazy rocker, a scuzzy update of White Stripes-era neo-blues that’s awash with guitarist Gianni Blacula’s fuzzy riffs and Johannes’s own leads on cigar box and electric, which remain as frenetic and idiosyncratic as ever. (MAB)

Cherry Glazerr – Big Bang

The first release of 2021 from L.A. trio Cherry Glazerr, Big Bang is a song that carries itself with grandeur and scale to match its celestial name.

Though its bass synth crescendoes are dramatic enough for even Hans Zimmer’s seal of approval, Big Bang’s heart is quite down-to-earth and touching. Driven by big acoustic strumming and a slyly memorable riff, this is maximalist pop done with a stellar eye for detail. (JM)

 The Spill Canvas – Darkside 

In anticipation of their forthcoming album, Conduit, The Spill Canvas have returned with new single Darkside – a dynamic construct that addresses the topic of toxic relationships over a background of gnarly guitars and up-tempo drum drives.

Their first full-length outing in almost a decade – following 2012’s GestaltDarkside offers an insight into what promises to be a worthy addition to their rock-fueled discography, delivering what all good rock songs need: high-gain guitar stabs, lead melodic intrigue, and a tasty guitar solo littered with pentatonic phrases and octave slides. (MO)

Capos - Paleta

Open-tuning fingerstyle champs Justin Phillips and Marcos Mena have teamed up to launch new project Capos with this breezy, slightly-too-early-for-summer guitar-bros jam.

Both players showcase a wide array of tricks from their arsenal, as Mena gets his percussive thump on, while Phillips drops some fretboard-burning melodic tapping licks alongside that irresistible main hook. (MAB)

August Burns Red – Extinct By Instinct (Reprise)

2020’s Guardians raises the bar for August Burns Red. An 11-track onslaught wrought with blazing lead lines and monstrous grooves, it condenses the group’s near-18-year collective musicality into 50 minutes of pure, unadulterated metalcore.

Now, the Pennsylvania five-piece have reimagined one of the album’s tracks, Extinct By Instinct, giving it an all-instrumental, somewhat acoustic, movie soundtrack-style flavor.

The absence of the original’s seismic drumming makes way for a section of exotic-flavored percussion, while the lack of distorted guitars allows the track’s numerous and complex melodies to really shine. (SR)

SOM - Youth // Decay

Post-rock aficionados will be tripping out over this “atmospheric rock collective”, which counts current and former members of Constants, Junius and Caspian among its ranks.

Youth // Decay is led by the ethereal vocal stylings of Will Benoit, but taking equal billing are its crystalline guitar arpeggios, while a crushing distorted undercurrent lends the track an emotive yin-and-yang that recalls Deftones at their most cinematic. (MAB)

Esther Rose - Good Time

Inspired by her car’s breakdown in Nashville during a Wisconsin-to-Louisiana solo road trip, Good Time is a playfully snarky, up-tempo, country-fried delight from New Orleans singer/songwriter Esther Rose’s upcoming album, How Many Times

Sprinkled with the perfect touch of reverb and those unmistakable yearning whines, the song’s guitar leads – its solo especially – perfectly reflect the song’s setting. Unfortunate origin story aside, put this song on at any bar whose patrons lean toward the country end of the musical spectrum (when we can do that again, of course) and everyone will be having a good ol’ time. (JM)