As we move into the summer, and farther away from the busy spring release cycle, it’s not unreasonable to expect the pace of new music – and with it the guitar’s evolution – to slow slightly.
We’re happy to report though, that any reports of such a slowdown would be premature.
From a dreamy psychedelic opus from St. Vincent, a rapid-fire, twist-filled volley of metal from Fear Factory, some airtight blues guitar magic from Quinn Sullivan and a heavy-riffing comeback single from Angels & Airwaves, this week had a lot to offer, guitar-wise.
So grab the cold beverage of your choice, open up your windows and let the breeze in, and unwind with these awesome tunes.
Angels & Airwaves - Euphoria
Tom DeLonge never really gets his due as the man who influenced a generation of guitarists. And while many of those fans will cite Blink-182’s pop-punk stylings as their reason to pick up a guitar, hardcore-tinged side-project Box Car Racer was a gateway to heavier dimensions.
So it’s gratifying to hear DeLonge hark back to that golden era with a track that fuses Angels & Airwaves’ synth-led sonics with gnarly BCR riffs, not to mention a, well, euphoric chorus.
Indeed, where modern rock can tend towards forcing overwrought refrains into arena-sized holes, Euphoria’s anthemic nature sounds entirely authentic, as DeLonge sought to “mirror the post-hardcore days of my youth, where the power of the music creates that feeling we once had as teenagers, where we wanted to break something and change the poisonous environment within our broken homes”.
And if that means capturing the magic of his early-Noughties heyday, we’d say he succeeded. (MAB)
Fear Factory – Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
Ahead of their upcoming album Aggression Continuum, longstanding LA metallers Fear Factory have unleashed the blisteringly quick Fuel Injected Suicide Machine.
Following the record’s impossibly heavy first single Disruptor – which dropped back in April – FISM sees Dino Cazares discharge a rapid-fire volley of palm-muted alternate picking runs and fast-evolving chord progressions, underpinned by the indomitable rhythm section of bassist Tony Campos and drummer Mike Heller.
For added flavor, the track also includes the occasional melodic interlude, in which Cazares’s vocals are washed in an oddly soothing orchestral accompaniment.
"This record is one of my proudest achievements and I'm really excited for it to finally be released,” Cazares says. “This album is pissed! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are hooked.”
Don’t worry Dino, we’re hooked already. (SR)
Mdou Moctar – Taliat
With the release of his upcoming album, Afrique Victime, now a matter of hours away, Niger native Mdou Moctar is primed to be one of the guitar’s biggest breakout stars of 2021.
Driven by a vibrant riff that seems to incorporate different delightful melodic flourishes each time around, Taliat – which follows the album’s title track, Tala Tannam and Chismiten – is an infectious rocker of the first degree.
With the laser-like instrumental and vocal support of Michael Coltun on bass, Souleymane Ibrahim on drums and Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Moctar is free to explore as he pleases.
Touching on classic-rock showmanship, pop sensibility and the Tuareg musical tradition he was raised in, Moctar’s guitar work on Taliat is absolutely electrifying. Looking for a Friday listen tomorrow? Put Afrique Victime at the top of your list. (JM)
Quinn Sullivan – In A World Without You
If you’ve yet to come across blues-rock sensation Quinn Sullivan, treat yourself to the opening measures of his latest single In A World Without You. After being introduced to the pumping, blues-infused single-coil strums, two things are likely to crop up in your mind: ‘Who is this guy?’, and ‘Where can I find more?!’
At only 22 years of age, this guitar-slinging sensation has it all. Silky songwriting ability? Check. Smooth vocals? Check. Elite, ahead-of-his-age guitar skills? Double check. Taken from his upcoming album Wide Awake, which drops on June 4, In A World Without You is the perfect way to familiarize yourself with Sullivan’s six-string skills, and will have you trawling through his repertoire for more.
On more than one occasion, we’re treated to extended quasi-improvisational efforts that nonchalantly serve up effortlessly tasty Mayer-style licks, akin to the warm fuzz-y constructions found in I Guess I Just Feel Like, with a smattering of smooth melodic flourishes fleshing out the track into a certified fresh blues romp.
It’s hard to believe that, for a young guitar player who has already racked up appearances at Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl and the RFK Stadium, the best is still yet to come. Nevertheless, we have a sneaky suspicion Sullivan is just getting started. (MO)
Born Of Osiris – Angel or Alien
You’re spoiled for choice in terms of metalcore this week. And indeed, after their recent playthrough of White Nile, you’re spoiled for choice in terms of Born Of Osiris content, too.
This week, the outrageously heavy Illinois quintet revealed the title and title track of their upcoming fifth studio album, Angel or Alien.
Slightly less destructive than White Nile – although there’s plenty of heaviness to digest – Angel or Alien places emphasis more on lead guitar, with an array of dizzying six-string runs shared by guitarists Lee McKinney and Nick Rossi in equal measure.
On the upcoming album, McKinney comments: “We feel like we brought the best elements from each album in our discography and combined them into what you will hear on Angel or Alien. So, no matter what album you favor in our discography, this one should shine.” (SR)
Black Midi - Chondromalacia Patella
With their latest release from the imminent Cavalcade, the UK avant-garde collective continue to be utterly uncategorizable. Sure, Black Midi are art-rock. But their unique brand of sonic mayhem also borders on post, math, kraut, noise, jazz, even lounge at times.
Chondromalacia Patella crams all these nearly-there-but-not-quite-right genre labels into one five-minute rollercoaster. Bookended by abrasive chord work and elephantine horn stabs, the track also plays host to Reverend-toting frontman Geordie Greep’s boundless, inimitable versatility: conjuring cascades of beautifully phrased clean guitar figures one minute, summoning furious thrash leads the next. (MAB)
St. Vincent – Live In The Dream
One could argue that – behind the publicity and high-profile videos of her biggest, in-your-face singles – St. Vincent’s (the stage name of Annie Clark) greatest artistic achievements have always been tucked away in somewhat unexpected places.
Nestled a third of the way through Clark’s new album, Daddy’s Home – a bold, deeply personal examination of parenthood and Clark’s father’s incarceration through the lens of neon-lit, theatrical and charmingly bizarre ‘70s funk – Live In The Dream gives Clark and her talents room to stretch out.
Where other cuts on the album (sometimes to their detriment) musically contract, Live In The Dream expands. Over an entrancing, psychedelic sonic dreamscape of sitar, impassioned strings and beautiful guitar arpeggios, Clark sings sweetly to a friend who she’s just revived from an overdose.
She caps the opus off with what may very well be her greatest guitar solo to date – an explosive, wailing melodic masterpiece rich with vibrato, piercing bends and dramatic slides.
In terms of songwriting, Daddy’s Home may not be Clark’s greatest or most cohesive work, but if you show up looking for guitar greatness, you’ll find plenty of it. (JM)
The Glorious Sons – Daylight
Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re missing until you actually hear it. More appropriate words can’t be spoken for The Glorious Sons’ latest outing Daylight – an unexpected release from the classic-rock five-piece that merits the mantle of the “most welcome surprise of the week”.
Sporting a series of Sympathy For the Devil-esque bongo beats to whet the whistle, Daylight explodes into a rollercoaster of raucous overdriven guitar chord progressions and upbeat drum pattterns, with a momentary reprieve appearing in the form of a solo-packed middle eight.
Said to be the result of the band’s quest to make something more energized than organized, Daylight more than successfully hits the design brief, and is a glimpse into what has been tee’d up to be a high-octane 2021 for the Canadian rockers. (MO)
Our Hollow, Our Home – Better Daze
The colliding of metalcore with more pop-style vocal arrangements always tends to yield interesting results, but few artists deliver on the crossover quite like Our Hollow, Our Home.
Arriving ahead of the Southampton outfit’s new album Burn In The Flood, Better Daze is, as the band describes, “an anthem for the underdogs, [and] a beacon of hope to those who are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after hard times.”
Seamlessly, the track transitions back and forth from an arrangement consisting of guitarist Tobias Young’s instantly catchy vocals and pop-punk-style powerchords to a thunderous, riff-heavy thrasher, in which the band’s musical chemistry and shared interest in starting mosh pits is palpable. (SR)
The Vaccines – Headphones Baby
Few bands boast a repertoire as filled to the brim with arena-filling crowd pleasers and catchy sing-along lung-bursters as The Vaccines. From the sensational What Did You Expect From The Vaccines to the more mature but by-no-means less energetic Combat Sports, the formidable three-piece have been an ever-present force in the industry, and have rarely – if ever – missed a beat.
It should come as no surprise, then, that their latest offering Headphones Baby has continued their tradition of hitting home runs in the indie-rock department. It’s everything you’d expect from a Vaccines track and more: festival-field-filling guitar parts, catchy chorus hooks and an easygoing, carefree charm that never seems to waver.
So sit back, relax, and experience The Vaccines at the peak of their powers. It’s perhaps the second most important vaccine you need in your life right now. (MO)