It's fair to say that this week has been a tumultuous one. The coronavirus continues to ravage many parts of the world, while in America, millions have taken to the streets, or hit pause on their usual activities, to protest the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman.
Though some of the week's new guitar tracks, the best of which we've compiled for this playlist, were recorded in what seems in hindsight to be a completely different world, a number are fresher - encapsulating these charged times in the visceral, moving ways only the best musicians can.
If you're looking to tap into those feelings yourself, we've certainly got you covered, with a searing punk protest from Bob Mould and a pummeling, all-too-timely Rage Against the Machine cover from Machine Gun Kelly. For those looking to perhaps disconnect from the headlines, we've also got a sweeping, symphonic masterpiece of metalcore from Currents, plus a number of other great tracks that might strike your fancy.
So, whatever void you're looking to fill with new music right now, plug in. You'll find something that does the trick here!
Celisse - Freedom
Famed for sharing the stage with huge names including Lizzo, Jon Baptiste, Trey Anastasio and many more, Gibson endorsee Celisse steps into the spotlight with this powerful and timely single in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Written, produced and performed by Celisse, the track’s contemporary aesthetic is bolstered by her keen ear for tone, hugely emotive vibrato and a cutting solo to round out the final chorus. All proceeds from sales of Freedom will go towards The Movement 4 Black Lives and Campaign Zero. (MAB)
Bob Mould - American Crisis
Between his time leading Hüsker Dü and Sugar, and his amazing solo career, Bob Mould has spent almost 40 years amassing an enviable discography of lyrically cutting, ferociously tuneful songwriting that has left an indelible mark on modern rock music.
To those uninitiated, American Crisis - the first single from Mould’s upcoming 14th solo album, Blue Hearts - is an oh-so-topical, teeth-baring slice of everything he does best.
Riding a tidal wave of brash, overdriven guitars, Mould tears into America’s political leadership, drawing parallels from the coronavirus pandemic to the AIDS crisis he lived through in the ‘80s, and noting the damaging, dominating influence of evangelical conservatives in both eras. Mould couldn’t have picked a better time for this one. (JM)
Currents - Origin
Storming out the gate with devilishly drop-tuned guitars and a truly headbang-worthy beat, Origin stands up as one of the best tracks on Currents’ latest album, The Way It Ends. Note that this says a lot, as the album listens like a back-to-back onslaught of bangers.
Trading high-gain guitars for ethereal clean tones in the verse, before reintroducing the distortion along with some tasty natural harmonics in the pre-chorus, Origin is a real dynamic rollercoaster, with a pristine production quality that makes for undeniably satisfying - albeit brutal - listening. (SR)
Felix Martin - Great Fairy’s Fountain (From The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) (feat. Ichika)
Ichika sure gets around during lockdown, huh? First, the Japanese guitar phenom guested with Tim Henson, then Yvette Young, and now he joins double-neck Venezuelan virtuoso Felix Martin for - what else? - a cover of The Legend of Zelda’s classic Great Fairy’s Fountain theme.
The track starts off as a faithful arrangement of the Koji Kondo original, but quickly takes a djentier turn, with some mesmeric tapping crescendos thrown into the mix. Nintend-whoa! (MAB)
Tallah - The Silo
Offering strong Slipknot vibes via the track’s arrangement and the video’s imagery, Tallah’s The Silo is an exciting example of fresh talent within the nu-core genre.
With driving palm-muted riffs throughout and a furiously climactic guitar solo, this track is a solid marker of what we might expect from the band’s debut album, Matriphagy. Featuring ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy’s son Max on the drums, might we see some prog flavorings from these guys? Only time will tell, but for now, sit back and enjoy this display of unnerving sonic/visual art. (SR)
No Rome - Hurry Home (feat. beabadoobee & Jay Som)
In the midst of these deeply unsettling times, here’s a song that plays like having a cool drink while watching the sun set on a warm summer’s night.
A collaboration between Fillipino-born, London-based chillwave/R&B specialist No Rome, and singer/songwriters beabadoobee and Jay Som - who also both have Filipino heritage - Hurry Home is an early ‘song of the summer’ contender.
Driven by a genre-blending cocktail of shimmering, light-as-a-feather acoustic strumming, supple beats, sprightly horns and playful leads, this is simply a joy to listen to. (JM)
Machine Gun Kelly - Killing in the Name
Now, this is a bit of a weird one, because we don’t actually know who played guitar on this cover of the iconic Rage Against the Machine original (although it could well have been MGK himself), but it’s a timely reminder of what millions of people have been protesting against this month.
Whoever is laying down the riffs on this huge production has done a great job of aping Morello’s overdubs on the original, accompanied by Travis Barker’s irrepressible energy on the kit. The video ends with a plea to end systematic racism. Amen. (MAB)