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From solo-heavy hip-hop ragers to bewitching country duets: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Royal Blood
(Image credit: Adam Gasson/Future)

In our little corner of the world, there’s a briskness in the air, the days are rapidly growing shorter and the leaves are beginning to, one by one, make their seasonal descent.

Yes it's getting colder outside, but this also means that the music industry is heating up with the fall release season, and its accompanying, exhilarating glut of new music.

To reflect that, we've got heaps of new tracks this week to scratch your new guitar music itch, from all over the stylistic map at that. Want to mellow out and get your country on? Hear Kurt Vile and the late John Prine's gorgeous new duet. Feel like getting angry about the state of the world? Press play on a hip-hop/shred rager from Public Enemy. Want to drown out the rest of the planet with some primed-for-destruction metalcore? We've got you covered there, too. 

So what are you waiting for? Tune in and check out the best and brightest in new guitar music.

Royal Blood - Trouble’s Coming

We’ve had the debate many times before, and yes, we know Mike Kerr plays bass, but since he happens to be one of the biggest riff merchants on planet Earth, and someone who possesses a distinctly six-string tonal approach, we simply must inform you that Royal Blood are back.

Kerr makes no secret of his admiration for Queens of the Stone Age, and new single Trouble’s Coming certainly has echoes of Josh Homme’s recent Mark Ronson-produced output.

The track’s taut, tortuous riff is bolstered by Ben Thatcher’s driving rhythms, with Daft Punk hailed as inspiration behind the sonic shift. It’s an altogether groovier take on the Royal Blood formula, and an intriguing indicator of what the band’s forthcoming album, due in spring 2021, might hold. (MAB)

Fleet Foxes - Quiet Air / Gioia

On Tuesday, Fleet Foxes surprised us with the announcement and sudden release of their fourth album, Shore - and what a surprise it was.

An absolute tour de force of rich melodies, heavenly hooks, luxurious production and songs packed to the brim with key/tempo/mood shifts that keep you constantly on your toes, it’s one of the most formidable albums we’ve heard this year, full stop.

Picking just one highlight from the album is a significant challenge in its own right, but Quiet Air / Gioia - with its confident mix of angelic folk/country harmonies, twitchy, almost-electronic rhythms and prog-informed, wholesale shifts in structure - is a perfect slice of its immersive brilliance. 

As if the song needed another tasty ingredient, Skyler Skjelset's post-chorus guitar leads manage to encapsulate the song's entire stylistic breadth in a matter of seconds. Honestly, you might not even notice them on the first listen - the true sign of a richly layered work of art. (JM)

Public Enemy – Yesterday Man

The iconic LA hip-hop outfit have always been champions of raps over riffs, and new album What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? has some seriously guitar-heavy tracks, from Smash the Crowd’s pentatonic swagger to Go At It’s bluesy grind.

But it’s Yesterday Man that provides the album’s guitar standout. Reworking the riff from Clutch’s Animal Farm for its backbone, the track is a whirlwind of frenetic licks, most likely performed by longtime PE collaborator Khari Wynn.

Chuck D may have fronted Prophets of Rage, but even Tom Morello would have find it tough to compete with the track’s relentless volley of solos. (MAB)

Machine Gun Kelly - forget me too (feat. Halsey)

While the Cleveland native has long established himself as a giant of the hip-hop scene, recent releases have seen him display a notably more punk-influenced side. Today saw the release of his latest star-studded album Tickets To My Downfall, a 15-track riot that features an abundance of stellar six-string moments, as well as guest appearances from the likes of Trippie Redd, blackbear and iann dior, among others.

Its fifth track, forget me too, is a fast-paced pop-punk earworm that harks back to the heyday of the early 2000s, employing attitude-driven powerchords underneath catchy vocal hooks. It’ll spark nostalgia for those who grew up in that era, though it’s equally refreshing for genre newcomers.

Kelly recruits pop phenom Halsey on guest vocals, and we can confidently say that she knocks it out the park. This one’s well worth a listen (or several). (SR)

Juanita Stein - L.O.T.F.

Taken from Snapshot, the third solo album from Howling Bells frontwoman Juanita Stein, L.O.T.F. presents itself as your typical swamp blues fare before branching off in a number of unexpected, thrilling ways.

Stein's hypnotic electric fingerpicking gives the song its underpinning, while her lyrics - and the rock-solid band behind her - take flight, demonstrating just how far the blues can be stretched when given a healthy push. (JM)

Intervals – 5-HTP

Instrumental rock titan Aaron Marshall returns with a jaw-dropping tour of his formidable chops in this three-minute prog-metal anthem under the Intervals banner.

Written to introduce new album Circadian, 5-HTP not only provides a showcase for Marshall’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it runs and ultra-tight palm-muted riffs, but also his knack for drawing the listener in with an arsenal of ultra-catchy hooks. (MAB)

Ariel Posen – Coming Back

One of today’s most influential blues guitarists – just ask Tosin Abasi – is coming back with, erm, Coming Back.

Although the chord progression is rooted in the jazzier end of the blues, a particularly fiery fuzz tone hints at Posen’s rockier tendencies, too. And if, like us, you spent the first couple of minutes staring at that slide on Posen's fourth finger, you'll find the moment that vocal slide solo eventually hits a hugely satisfying peak. (MAB)

Kurt Vile - How Lucky (feat. John Prine)

Even a cursory listen to the music of Kurt Vile will reveal how deeply John Prine’s strikingly plainspoken lyrics and vocal delivery have etched themselves into Vile’s music. So it’s quite fitting to hear the two team up on this heartwarming duet. 

Taken from Vile's Nashville-recorded Speed, Sound, Lonely KV EP, How Lucky is rife with the intricate, ever-unpredictable but always melodic guitar playing that's defined his career.

Generations separated them, but Vile and Prine's vocals are conversational, approachable and perfectly on each other's wavelength. On the whole, the recording is a beautiful tribute to Prine, who tragically passed away in April from COVID-19. (JM)

Knifes – The Comedown

Now, here’s a supergroup quite unlike any other: California trio Knifes is made up of guitar/bass techs and roadies for some of the world’s biggest bands, including the likes of Linkin Park, Slipknot and Fall Out Boy.

Debut single The Comedown oozes ’90s-era alt-rock – it’s chock-full of big powerchord riffs, and topped off by a blistering Whammy solo from guitarist Ben Young.

With a delivery that expertly toes the line between polished and raw, the trio have clearly learned a thing or two from their former bosses, and that’s a very good thing indeed. (MAB)

Five Finger Death Punch - Wrong Side of Heaven - Acoustic

While the one’s not technically new, we couldn’t leave out Five Finger Death Punch’s reimagined version of their mega-hit Wrong Side of Heaven, taken from 2013 album The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1.

This version dispenses with distorted guitars, and instead opts for an orchestral arrangement which builds throughout to an immensely satisfying crescendo towards the end, all the while underpinned by an acoustic guitar that remains compositionally faithful to the original. (SR)

Volumes - Weighted

And now for your weekly dose of metalcore. The intro and chorus sections of this one feature a vocal melody and instrumental arrangement that might fool you into thinking that you’re in for some hard rock, but you can throw any such assumptions straight outta the window, as the verse quickly shatters this illusion.

With chugtastic palm-muting bolstering the chorus sections and demonic bends fueling the verses, there’s plenty of six-string ear candy to uncover here. (SR)

Annisokay - Bonfire of the Millennial

This one’s the fourth single released from the German metallers upcoming album, Aurora, which is due out December 4. It’s certain to whet the appetite of any metal/post hardcore fan, let’s put it that way.

Bonfire of the Millennials features brutal guitars over heavy sections, as well as melodic parts underneath catchy vocal lines, and it’s well worth a listen if you are in any way metal-inclined. (SR)