From monstrous tech-metal to intoxicating alt-rock: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Flock of Dimes performs in concert at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on August 30, 2017 in Austin, Texas.
Flock of Dimes (aka Jenn Wasner) with signature Reverend JW-1 guitar in tow (Image credit: Rick Kern/WireImage)

If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’ve made it through another week – mostly. We can show you cool new guitar music, but unfortunately we haven’t been granted the authority to unilaterally make today Friday.

Speaking of cool new guitar music though, we’ve found a group of new tunes this week that should – whether you want to push your sound system into the red and get a notice of complaint from your neighbors, or find your new yoga soundtrack – contain at least something that strikes your fancy.

This week we’ve got a breezy, country-fried rocker from Dinosaur Jr., a monstrous slab of tech-metal from Ghost Iris, some bluesy, high-gain bliss from Smith/Kotzen, otherworldly playing from Flock of Dimes, and a whole lot more.

So tune in and press play, there should be something here to get you through the rest of the week, and some of the next one.

Smith/Kotzen – Scars 

With the release of the long-awaited debut album from rock guitar heroes Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen only weeks away, the powerful pair have followed up their stomping lead single with another tasty offering, Scars.

Harking back to the blues-rock sounds of the ‘70s, Scars is everything you’d expect from a Smith/Kotzen track – high-gain guitars galore, killer swampy drop-tuned hooks and decorative lead lines that litter the track with the bluesy swagger.

As an added bonus, the song boasts not one, but two, guitar solos that see Smith and Kotzen trade lines as they tear through a delicious display of rapid-fire call-and-response sweeps and searing scale runs.

If you didn’t think it possible to be any more excited for the album’s release on March 26, Scars will prove you wrong. (MO)

Flock of Dimes - Price of Blue

Jenn Wasner is a bewitching guitarist, and her work with Wye Oak has been responsible for some of the most enthralling chord progressions of the 21st century.

This year, she revives solo project Flock of Dimes – but what was once a masterclass in synth-pop has mutated into something a little closer to her six-string WO stylings – and perhaps even beyond.

Price of Blue is indicative of a reinvigorated guitar-focused approach, all chiming arpeggios and open tunings, but the tremolo-laden lead lines – culminating in what we’d confidently categorize as a bona fide guitar solo – indicate that April’s forthcoming Head of Roses will find Wasner elevating her already otherworldly playing to new heights. We can’t wait to hear what that entails. (MAB)

Ghost Iris – Desert Dread (feat. Mark Hunter)

Ahead of their upcoming fourth studio album Comatose, Danish tech metallers Ghost Iris have enlisted Chimaira lead vocalist Mark Hunter for new single Desert Dread.

The four-piece spare listeners little respite from the outset, immediately blasting off with a searing pinch-harmonic-infused guitar riff, before accelerating into the monstrous, no doubt mosh-inducing verse section.

On the track’s philosophical meaning, the band say, “It’s a song that delves into the topic of anti-natalism and the choices thereof. Undesirable outcomes that have severe consequences. Choice is [a] desert of dread, one where we must choose wisely.” (SR)

Dinosaur Jr. – I Ran Away

Perhaps the only ‘80s-era American indie titan that’s still not only standing, but churning out records equal to those of their heyday in quality, Dinosaur Jr. are back with Sweep It Into Space, their first new album in nearly five years. 

Co-produced by Kurt Vile, the album – from the sounds of its first single, I Ran Away – seems primed to deliver another bundle of noisy, swirling, distorto-pop gems with sweet-as-candy melodies and hooks, i.e. what the Amherst, Massachusetts trio has been best in the business at for decades.

With Vile lending some airiness to the song with sturdy 12-string strumming, J. Mascis putting his cowboy hat on for some wonderful lead-work and reaching back to his favorite classic rock influences for a soaringly epic solo, and the rhythm section – Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums – as powerful as ever, I Ran Away is the sound of one of rock’s greatest power trios having a blast doing what they do best. (JM)

Flying Cupid – Into the Light

Flying Cupid – the solo project of Indian-born guitarist Abhiruk Patowary – is a must-listen if you’re in any way metal-inclined. A multi-instrumentalist and recent student of the Berklee School of Music, Patowary utilizes Flying Cupid as a conduit for his out-of-this-world compositions, most recently on his latest release, Into the Light.

The second single from his debut EP Reflections – due out later this year – the track channels a multitude of metalcore influences, from the endlessly melodic cleans of Killswitch Engage to the modern-styled drop-tuned leads of Periphery. The result? An astonishing display of guitar wizardry encased within a truly catchy piece of music. (SR)

Bachelor – Anything At All

High-profile musical meetings-of-the-minds often end up being less than the sum of their individual parts, but from the sounds of their first single together as Bachelor, Anything At All, Jay Som and Palehound have a unique, natural chemistry that will easily overcome the (often ego-driven) supergroup curse.

Driven by a slinky bass line, playful piano and a captivating melange of guitarwork that immaculately blends dissonance and tightly coiled riffage, Anything At All is a scintillating first taste of what we hope will be a debut full-length. We’ll be on the edge of our seats waiting. (JM)

Black Honey - Disinfect

UK alt-rock upstarts Black Honey just keep getting better and better. Disinfect is a brooding, apocalyptic rocker that points to Jesus Lizard with one hand and salutes Nine Inch Nails with the other.

The track’s gnarly modulation and fuzz-rich guitar tones highlight the textural nous that sets Izzy Phillips and Chris Ostler apart from their contemporaries, while that pounding chorus is as devastating as the track’s lyrical content. (MAB)

Joanna Connor – Destination 

When does a blues track become a work of art? It’s up for debate, but to say it is when guitar great Joanna Connor unleashes an out-of-this-world slide guitar solo is as good an answer as any.

That’s what listeners are treated to with Destination – a raucous rollercoaster of a track that doesn’t stop for a breather until its run time is up. Boasting a high-energy solo intro that precedes three minutes of full-throttle guitar, Connor is at the peak of her powers, dazzling us with a masterclass of fretboard-spanning slides and bluesy lead lines.

If Destination has you craving more Connor action, fear not – her new Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith-produced album is out tomorrow (February 26). (MO)

Cassandra Jenkins – Crosshairs 

A highlight of the New York City singer/songwriter’s phenomenally lush new album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, Crosshairs is an absolute thing of beauty. 

Aside from California Dreamin' and Nico’s Chelsea Girls, you won’t hear flute get used more effectively in a rock song. Here, it adds an especially ethereal touch to a soundscape that will do wonders to lower your internal temperature.

Topped off with some skyscraping guitar leads and a luxurious, vibrato-heavy solo, Crosshairs is an effortless masterpiece of arrangement. (JM)

The Wrong Sides – Quietus Me 

Every once in a while, a band emerges promising to be the “next big thing” in prog-rock music. The case can certainly be put forward for Israel Romero’s band The Wrong Sides, whose new single Quietus Me gives us a taste of the axeman’s seriously impressive chops.

Fans of Dream Theater, take note – Romero’s playthrough of the track offers up a dizzying array of technical ferocity, with the Puerto Rican guitarist gracefully transitioning between upper-register lead licks and chugging chordal constructions.

With a commanding grasp on melody, and an expertly crafted combination of tone and technique, Romero’s rendition of Quietus Me is sure to satisfy your daily desire for prog-rock guitar. (MO)

Alice Phoebe Lou - Dirty Mouth

2021 sees the return of the South African singer-songwriter, and Vox Apache in hand, she’s determined to bring the feelgood factor to the tail-end of the pandemic.

Dirty Mouth is positivity punk in action: its sugary-sweet chord progressions, boundless drums and unrestrained lyrical stylings are an utter joy. (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.