We say this all the time at Guitar World, but – in light of some recent headline-grabbing comments stating the opposite from the likes of Gene Simmons and Adam Levine – we’d like to again reiterate, there is no need to hold a funeral for the guitar, or bands, or rock music, just yet.
The guitar is alive and well in a greater variety of music than ever before, and with every week is being pushed in new and unexpected directions.
Case in point? The guitar-heavy tunes we’ve cobbled into a playlist this week. A slide guitar bonanza from the great Paul Gilbert? Check! A devastating John Prine cover from Phoebe Bridgers? You got it. Some Omar Rodríguez López by-way-of Tony Iommi riffing from The Vintage Caravan? Coming right up. A tight bit of catchy rock perfection from Against The Current? You get the point...
People are allowed to say whatever they want about the guitar being dead, but we’re also allowed to refute them. See why we think we’re right, and give the songs below a listen.
Paul Gilbert – Argument About Pie
Whatever you were expecting from Paul Gilbert’s new single, Argument About Pie delivers in spades. And then some.
In a track that acts as a roadmap through the prolific wizard’s arsenal of mind-boggling guitar techniques, Gilbert pulls out all the stops to offer up blistering high-speed picking patterns, expertly executed slide lines and everything else in between. Any sections that take a step back from the whirlwind of notes see Gilbert take the time to show off the more emotive side of his playing (even if he is only talking about pies), utilizing big bends and tremolos to maximum effect.
Oh, and did we mention that Gilbert is also playing everything else on the track, including those blink-and-you’ll miss them snare rolls and tom fills? Yeah. Crazy stuff. (MO)
The Vintage Caravan - Crystallized
Splice Mars Volta with Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath, and you get Iceland’s premier prog exports, The Vintage Caravan, who are gearing up to release fifth album, Monuments, in April.
New single Crystallized opens with a main riff that’s a shoo-in for this year’s finest six-string salvos, before the track erupts into a Rush-worthy syncopation freakout, doom-blues breakdown and delay-heavy wig-out from guitar-toting frontman Óskar Logi Ágústsson.
If you consider your music taste in any way progressive, it’s utterly essential listening. (MAB)
Phoebe Bridgers – Summer’s End
Having first covered the haunting John Prine masterpiece during a Pitchfork livestream concert last spring – just days after the legendary singer/songwriter’s tragic passing – Phoebe Bridgers released her stunning take on Summer’s End as part of Spotify’s Singles series this week.
Like Bridgers does in her own songs, Prine created all-immersive worlds in his with just a few proverbial brushstrokes. “Summer's end is around the bend just flying/The swimming suits are on the line just drying” – it’s barely a dozen words, but the anxiety, melancholy and longing for something that’s clearly slipping away are visceral, and hit like a punch to the gut.
Moving the song firmly, but with great care, along with some immaculate acoustic fingerpicking, Bridgers continues her remarkable hot streak with a breathtaking tip of the cap to a kindred spirit and fellow master of the form. (JM)
A Day To Remember – Last Chance to Dance (Bad Friend)
While A Day To Remember have opted to veer away from their heavier roots in recent years, they clearly couldn’t put an album together without something for the purists.
Last Chance to Dance – fourth track on the Ocala quintet’s new album You’re Welcome – staves off, at least temporarily, any accusations that the band have gone mainstream, belting critics in the face with its barrage of mosh-inducing riffs.
And to satiate musical palettes further, the track also includes both brilliantly dialed-in clean tones, as well as powerchords behind its sing-along chorus. Oh, consider yourself warned: if you’re starved for a breakdown, this one will leave you engorged. (SR)
Mother Mother – I Got Love
Between its clap-or-stomp-along, wall-shaking bass drum hits, big-’n’-catchy riff and ebullient vocals, I Got Love has all the makings of an alt-rock hit.
The first single from the Vancouver, Canada-based group since they went mega-viral on TikTok last year, I Got Love shows exactly why this quintet helped so many people find some light and joy amidst their quarantine blues. (JM)
Ari O’Neal - home.
She’s played guitar with some of music’s biggest names – Beyoncé, Jay Z, Lizzo and Alicia Keys among them – but Ari O’Neal steps into the spotlight with this instrumental ballad rooted in classic soul and blues.
George Benson’s influence rings true in home.’s strong melodic hooks, while O’Neal’s exquisite clean Strat tones let every nuance of her playing shine, from delicate passing notes to monster pentatonic runs. (MAB)
As Everything Unfolds – On the Inside
Since bursting onto the scene in 2018 with their debut EP Closure, As Everything Unfolds have made waves. And as they gear up to release their debut full-length Within Each Lies The Other, it’s clear their roots in the genre are set to take greater hold.
Album opener On the Inside proves exactly why this UK six-piece are a name to watch, with bandleader Charlie Rolfe leading the troupe with Hayley Williams-meets-post hardcore-style vocals, supported by an ultra-tight instrumental section. (SR)
Valley Palace – Contact
Fresno, California-based musician Nathan Taylor – who records under the name Valley Palace – counts DIIV and Beach Fossils as some of his biggest inspirations.
While their influence is obvious on his latest single, Contact, Taylor is no mere imitator, standing far above the scores of bedroom aspirants who – in those bands’ wake – grabbed a reverb pedal and did their best to land a slot on any ‘Indie Chill’ playlist.
From Contact’s brilliantly simple earworm of a riff, to Taylor’s restrained but beautiful vocals and introspective but never coy lyrics, it’s clear that he’s onto something. Whether Contact is a standalone single or the first taste of something bigger, Taylor has our attention, and he should have yours too. (JM)
Dirty Honey – California Dreamin'
Despite sharing its name with The Mama and The Papas’ wistful, harmony-driven anthem, Dirty Honey’s new high-octane, heavy-riffing riot California Dreamin' is nothing like its namesake.
Luring listeners in with a series of tasty open-string lines that serve as a friendly reminder to strap in your seatbelts, California Dreamin' launches into a stomping ode to “the land of milk and honey”, using monstrous riffs to explore “the good, the bad and the ugly” side of the city. Guitarist John Notto doesn’t shy away from letting loose, either, serving up a searing solo constructed from a melting pot of whole-note bends and a blazing barrage of tasty runs.
A sign of things to come from the LA-based rock proteges – who are teeing up the release of their Nick DiDia-produced debut album – California Dreamin' gives us comfort in the knowledge that the future of rock music is in safe hands. Watch this space. (MO)
Kele - The Heart of the Wave
Outside of his work with UK indie-rock titans Bloc Party, Kele Okereke’s output has leaned on dance beats and electronica, but the artist who described Mogwai’s Young Team as his musical “year zero” has returned to guitar with a new single and fresh direction.
Okereke spent much of lockdown making “swirling guitar loops” as a kind of therapy, and The Heart of the Wave is the result. The three-minute, all-instrumental track is built from interlocking layers of crystalline guitars, in true Steve Reich minimalism tradition, while a wave of shimmer delay adds an ethereal layer to proceedings.
It’s hypnotic, meditative and like nothing Okereke has put out before. We’re curious to see where he takes this sound next. (MAB)
Against The Current – weapon
It’s plain to see why Poughkeepsie pop-rockers Against The Current have amassed their formidable following. As highlighted in new single weapon, the trio’s sound is forged from straight-talking riffs, supremely catchy vocal melodies and ultra-tight rhythms: arguably the trifecta of modern-day musical success.
Says vocalist Chrissy Costanza, “weapon is about the invisible wars we wage within ourselves, where we are simultaneously the protagonist and the antagonist of our own story.
“We wrote it in a time of darkness that existed both in the world around us but also in my own head. This song is a triumph over that darkness.” (SR)