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From inspired improvisations to 21st century rock swagger: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Ayron Jones
(Image credit: Press)

In our neck of the woods, winter’s been dragging on endlessly, bringing little but piles of snow, grey skies and slippery sidewalks.

Aside from running up our gas bills though, we’ve been trying to warm ourselves with great new guitar music – of which there’s been plenty of late.

This week, we’re excited to share with you some improvisational mastery from Ryley Walker & Kikagaku Moyo, a hard-riffing new Mammoth WVH single, a swaggering new tune from Ayron Jones, a high-tempo sledgehammer from Lamb of God, and a whole lot more.

So rub those hands together and dig in. You might find just the tune you’re looking for to get you through these cold months.

 Mammoth WVH – You’re to Blame 

Hot on the heels of announcing the release date of his highly anticipated debut album, Wolfgang Van Halen has whetted everyone’s appetite even further by giving us an aperitif from the new record to sink our teeth into.

His latest single, You’re to Blame, is a hard-riffing, full-throttle gold mine of blissfully distorted tones and heavy-hitting guitar lines. Easing us in with a hi-hat count, the track introduces us to the main riff, which soon calls in reinforcements in the form of a high-gain layer of punchy guitars, just as the drums wind up to sling us down a hill of rock and roll bliss.

Around halfway down this hill is the appearance of a gnarly guitar solo, feature-packed with massive whole note bends and swift legato runs.

The new offering from Mammoth WVH comes after Wolfgang Van Halen recently released Distance, which served as an emotional tribute to his late father and guitar icon Eddie Van Halen.

If you listen to You’re to Blame and find yourself hungry for even more, you’ll unfortunately have to wait until June 11 for the rest of the album to arrive. Until then, we’ll add this track to our "to be played on repeat every day until June" playlist... (MO)

Ayron Jones - Mercy

It’s been a little while since we heard any fresh material from Seattle’s next great rock hope, but Mercy proves last year’s hard-hitting Take Me Away was far from a fluke.

Two notes is all Ayron Jones need to fuel the track’s swaggering verse, which veers between grunge gloom and hard-rock bombast, but an anthemic chorus and verifiable face-melter of a solo establish a sonic signature that’s fresh, exhilarating and very much his own. (MAB)

Lamb of God – Ghost Shaped People

Clearly, the Phrygian dominant-flavored creative juices were overflowing during the writing of Lamb of God’s latest full-length, so much so that Ghost Shaped People – a track that would comfortably stand alone as a lead single – was relegated to a B-side.

Fortunately, the album’s Deluxe Edition – which drops March 12, and includes bonus tracks and new live footage – offers us a chance to immerse ourselves in this previously unreleased masterpiece.

Who said you need ultra-low drop tunings to manifest the heaviest of heavy metal? Right from the off, this track shatters that notion, with a furiously high-tempo riff that demonstrates the ultra-precise musical synergy for which the members of LoG have come to be known. 

Oh, and clear a space, because that breakdown will have you starting a mosh pit by yourself in your living room. (SR)

The Weather Station – Subdivisions

Closing any album – any work of art really – is always difficult, but especially so when the work in question is something as intricate and multi-dimensional as The Weather Station’s terrific new LP, Ignorance.

Having developed The Weather Station from essentially a solo project to the large, full-fledged ensemble on glorious display on Ignorance, singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman has gifted us with some truly immaculate pop songs – pieces that sway, breathe, twist and turn, and fail to put a single foot wrong, despite the dizzying amount of individual components at play.

Picking a highlight is tough, but the gorgeous Subdivisions shines as the perfect closer. Driven by luscious piano, the song is colored with minimalist but absolutely sublime guitar leads, its solo standing out in particular as a vibrato masterclass. (JM)

While She Sleeps – You Are All You Need

Following the launch of the Sleeps Society, While She Sleeps’ new crowd-funded fanbase model which allows dedicated listeners to pay a membership fee in order to receive special perks – as well as a single of the same name – the Sheffield metalcore titans return with You Are All You Need.

The second single from the band’s upcoming album Sleeps Society, You Are All You Need boasts all the hallmarks of modern metalcore: dazzling drop-tuned guitar lines, that satisfying blend of dirty and clean vocals, ambient instrumental sections and a kickass solo, all condensed into one three-and-a-half-minute banger. (SR)

Floatie - Catch a Good Worm

A two-and-a-half minute blast of taut clean riffs and shimmering modulation, Catch a Good Worm is steeped in the tradition of classic math- and alt-rock.

With sinewy guitar lines that are hypnotic and bracing in equal measure, Chicagoans Sam Bern and Will Wisniewski are ones to watch. (MAB)

Nana Yamato – If

Though certainly informed by the Western indie rock that influenced her as a teen, the music of 20-year old Japanese singer-songwriter Nana Yamato already has its own distinct blueprint.

Before you’ll know what hit you, the sharp riff of If – one of the highlights of her debut album, Before Sunrise – will sink its claws in. By the time she adds some seasoning though – by way of some six-string discordance (not to mention some horns) – into the picture by song’s end, it’s clear that Yamato will definitely be an artist to watch for years to come. (JM)

Ryley Walker/Kikagaku Moyo – Pour Dampness Down the Stream 

The product of a one-off collaborative set at the 2018 Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Ryley Walker and Kikagaku Moyo’s electrifying, Bandcamp chart-topping new live LP, Deep Fried Grandeur, is a masterpiece of improvisation.

Comprised of two 18-minute jams – themselves divvied up into a few distinct, equally enthralling sections – the guitar work on Deep Fried Grandeur criss-crosses entire musical worlds with ease. 

The first of the two pieces, Pour Dampness Down the Stream, is a particularly hypnotic stew. Americana-anchored boogie rubs shoulders with cosmic Krautrock, while sky-gazing, boundary-pushing psychedelia meets more traditional folk influences from multiple continents. 

Walker’s quartet and Kikagaku Moyo – a quintet – had just a single afternoon of rehearsal before taking the stage, but their comfort with and mutual respect for one another shines brightly in this fascinating document of joyous, guitar-heavy exploration. (JM)

 Hayley Williams – Over Those Hills

Known for her powerful vocals and commanding stage presence with Paramore, Hayley Williams recently flexed her songwriting skills when she wrote, recorded and released her latest surprise solo offering Flowers for Vases / descansos

Unlike her previous outing where she was joined by a series of session players, Williams played everything – including the guitars.

One track from this collection of emotionally charged songs that's particularly indicative of her instrumental and songwriting achievements is Over Those Hills. Boasting a wealth of textures underpinned by the dark tones of her acoustic and the pulsating melody of a clean electric, the track ebbs and flows with a water-like quality before expertly executed bass and drum lines get heads a-bobbing and feet a-tapping.

After a quick breather, the highlight of the track arrives in the form of a fuzz-drenched, bitcrusher-tinged guitar solo that dances around with a reverb-laden piano line.

One of many tracks from an album bursting at the seams with musical quality, William's latest album serves as dizzying display of her multi-faceted, extremely versatile musicianship. (MO)

 Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Hall of Death 

In anticipation of the release of their upcoming album Superwolves, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy followed up their previous single, Make Me Worry, with Hall of Death – a track that sees them join forces with blues rock and speed-picking powerhouse Mdou Moctar.

The result? A fast-paced rollercoaster ride of rapid-fire riffs and warmly layered licks highlighted by the unforgettable, instantly recognizable lead lines of Moctar. The warm, subtly distorted rhythms of Sweeney’s guitar chug away throughout the piece, shaking hands with the drum line that skips along at a canter, propping up Billy’s vocals and swarming harmonies.

As Billy tags out, Moctar tags in, offering up a break-neck-speed, flanger-drenched lead line that showcases Moctar’s trademark open-string hammer-ons and pull-offs, as well as his super-quick picking prowess.

The new album, which promises to see Sweeney and Billy at their best, will be available April 30. (MO)

Grandmas House - Always Happy

Hailing from Bristol, UK, this queer-punk trio possess all the urgency and forthrightness that made stars of hometown heroes IDLES.

Always Happy is punk-rock at its most wiry, sarcastic to its core and essential listening. (MAB)