From dream-pop magic to the next big name in power-metal: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

(Image credit: Aziya/YouTube)

It's been just about a year since All This™️ started, and you're still here reading this very sentence – give yourself a pat on the back, it really hasn't been easy.

Keeping our ear to the ground for awesome new guitar-based creations has definitely helped to keep us going strong at Guitar World HQ, and this week we're particularly excited to share what we've found in that vein with you.

From dancefloor-ready disco (complete with some delectable funk rhythm guitar work) via Japanese Breakfast, epic power-metal from BRIDEAR, a bit of dream-pop magic from Horace Bray, another amazing Zelda cover from Felix Martin & Charlie Parra, and plenty more, we've truly got it all this time around.

So plug those ol' headphones in – you never know what might strike your fancy.

St. Vincent – Pay Your Way In Pain

Since she graced Guitar World’s cover for the first time and dropped the beguiling, playful and fearless Masseduction all in 2017, Annie Clark (who performs under the St. Vincent name) has only seen her already-significant impact on pop music grow larger, with collaborations with the likes of Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Jack Antonoff cementing her A-list status. 

If there were any worries that the increased visibility and industry plaudits would somehow lead to a more conformist St. Vincent though, Pay Your Way In Pain – the lead single from her new album, Daddy’s Home – should do away with them instantaneously. 

With a beat that’s been compressed to near 8-bit level, an out-of-this-world vocal performance and country-by-way-of-Twin Peaks guitar leads – played, of course, on her Ernie Ball Music Man signature model – Pay Your Way In Pain sounds like absolutely nothing else. A perfect St. Vincent song, then. (JM)

Aziya - Slip!

Instagram star Aziya has kept herself busy over lockdown, posting covers of everyone from PJ Harvey to Jimi Hendrix, and participating in H.E.R.’s Girls With Guitars Instagram live series. But 2021 is the year the 21-year-old’s solo career starts proper with this incendiary debut single.

Slip! finds Aziya’s taut Telecaster lines snake around a monster groove, with a killer chorus hook and a gnarly delay-heavy lead. There’s a menacing industrial undertone to the whole track, but that earworm of a chorus is endlessly inviting. In short, it’s moody guitar-pop perfection. (MAB)

 Laufey – Best Friend 

It’s an unenviable task to have to choose just one track from Laufey’s most recent EP, Best Friend, to be the topic of the ‘Tracks of the Week’ conversation, when all four songs could just as easily feature.

That said, the quality of the EP can be summed up in the title track, Best Friend, which comes jam-packed with neo-soul-inspired clean guitars that dreamily drift on top of a thick mattress of harmonies. The lo-fi vibe builds to a cornucopia of layered vocals, reverb-drenched piano and an ever-present, jazz-y guitar line that is a testament to Laufey’s effortless songwriting abilities.

It must be reiterated that it’s cruel to select just one track from an EP that packs in so many tasty guitar elements, so check out the rest of Best Friend if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed. (MO)

Atreyu – Underrated

Returning with their first material since last year’s Save Us, California metalcore vets Atreyu have dropped two mighty new singles, Warrior and Underrated. Though the former features Blink-182’s Travis Barker and comes with its own YouTube visualizer, Underrated is more guitar-heavy, and so rightly earns itself a place on this week’s coveted essential guitar tracks list.

There’s no beating around the bush here; guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel lead the five-piece out the gate swinging, delivering a furious guitar riff which sets the tone for the havoc to come. (SR)

Mdou Moctar – Tala Tannam

For the first single from Afrique Victime – his first album for indie powerhouse Matador Records – Mdou Moctar chose Chismiten, a freewheeling, ferocious and propulsive rocker overflowing with generous portions of his fiery fretwork.

Tala Tannam, the second taste we’ve gotten from the record, lowers the temperature without losing any of what makes this Niger native such a distinct, exciting talent.

His amazing band locked in as always, Moctar is given free reign over this heartfelt ballad, adding brief, piercing and beautiful lead guitar fills over the tune’s marching, ever-present and ever-building sandstorm of a riff. (JM)

 Kitt Wakeley feat. Joe Satriani – Conflicted 

What do you get when you cross an electric guitar legend with a classical composer? It’s a question you never thought you’d hear yourself ask, but it’s one you’ll be glad to get an answer to, what with the release of the new shred-infused orchestral offering from Joe Satriani and Kitt Wakeley.

Conflicted places Satch’s high-gain tones comfortably on top of a cinematic bed of sound that would be quite at home in a Nolan epic. Satch serves as lead and support, sandwiching a stripped-back, momentum-building breakdown between two instances of earth-shattering bends and searing scale runs.

It almost shouldn’t work, but it really does, and it makes us wonder if there is any musical setting that wouldn't be improved by Satch. (MO)

Felix Martin & Charlie Parra - Zelda’s Lullaby

Two-handed tap-happy guitar polymath and gear company owner Felix Martin has followed up his last Ichika-featuring Legend of Zelda cover with an epic progressive take on the traditionally melancholy and bittersweet Zelda’s Lullaby.

New Kramer signature artist Charlie Parra joins in to deliver some pin-point bends and tapping of his own, while Martin engages in some – gasp! – regular down-picking. It’s appropriately adventurous playing, and brilliantly executed. (MAB)

BRIDEAR – Daybreak

Since forming in Fukuoka in 2012, BRIDEAR have amassed a passionate following in their native Japan. But with their debut international release Bloody Bride – due out May 7 – the power-metalling foursome set their sights on the global stage.

Offering a taste of what’s to come, new single Daybreak bears the winning power-metal formula of virtuosic, tap-heavy guitars, thunderous drumming and infectiously sing-along-worthy vocals, and should excite even the most passive of the genre’s listeners. (SR)

 Horace Bray – Fame Fortune and Perfume 

Warped, lo-fi guitars and an ominous minor strum introduces us to the title track of Fame Fortune and Perfume, the latest EP from internet guitar phenomenon Horace Bray. Those familiar with the Instagram guitar scene will no doubt be familiar with Bray, who has amassed over 120k followers on his channel by showcasing his diverse repertoire of fingerstyle acoustic, neo-soul soloing and funk-fueled improvisation skills.

His first collection of original music since his 2016 debut Dreamstate, Fame Fortune and Perfume taps into the best of Bray’s abilities as a songwriter and a guitarist, offering up Mayer-like rhythmic chord melodies, subtle acoustic cleans and powerful vocals. (MO)

Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet

Michelle Zauner – who records under the name Japanese Breakfast – opened her masterful 2017 album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet with Diving Woman, a hypnotizing, seven-minute blast of sweet-n’-jagged shoegaze guitar bliss that stands out as, for our money, one of the best rock songs of the 2010s.

Having dispatched with the all-conquering rocker straight away, Zauner used the rest of Soft Sounds from Another Planet to stretch out stylistically, dabbling in jangle-pop (Road Head), ambient textures (Planetary Ambience) and even disco (Machinist).

On Be Sweet, the first single from her upcoming album, Jubilee, Zauner goes all-in on the disco sounds she first hinted at a few years ago with a neon-lit, Studio 54-ready piece of danceable pop that practically begs to be blasted out of a car stereo. 

Featuring a slinky, delectable bassline and a masterclass in funk rhythm guitar that’d give Nile Rodgers a run for his money, Be Sweet shows that – whether she’s crafting many-layered epics or laser-focused pop – Zauner almost never puts a foot wrong. (JM)

PENGSHUi – Eat The Rich

We’ve heard of punk/rap crossovers before, but what happens when punk meets grime? PENGSHUi, that’s what. This trio have formulated a sound rooted in the London rap subgenre, but with distorted guitars. The result is, needless to say, one of the more unique genre mashups we've heard in a while.

On new single Eat The Rich, frontman Illaman serves up a fiercely political set of lyrics, backed up by a crunchy guitar-driven instrumental section. If there’s a track to get you energized this week, this is it. (SR)

Hey, King! - Road Rage

Ben Harper produced the debut album from this rootsy California duo, putting his involvement down to “a level of songwriting that I find to be a rare. This music is singular in its brilliance with nothing to compare it with or to.”

Although we’d draw comparisons to the likes of The Black Keys or Larkin Poe, that songwriting nous Harper so admires is certainly in evidence on Road Rage.

Rooted around the swagger of Natalie London’s blues-rock riff, the track builds to a furious climax, where leads are used sparingly to great effect, hitting all the right, emotive notes for that euphoric final chorus. (MAB)

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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.