Spring itself might technically still be a few days away, but that needn’t stop you from beginning the prep-work on your spring and (because why not?) summer playlists a bit early.
Between a steel-drum-infused celebration of routine from The Go! Team, some soulful six-string sunshine from Mateus Asato and Annalé, a classic rock-informed epic from Myles Kennedy, and some raucous anti-hate punk from DZ Deathrays, we’ve got tunes for all tastes and seasons in our own best-of-the-guitar playlist this week.
Open up your ears, then, and lend some time to some of modern guitar’s brightest talents – you might just find something that sticks with you in a profound way.
Myles Kennedy – The Ides Of March
Myles Kennedy’s latest release is a near-eight-minute epic that contains all manner of nods to a host of classic rock greats. From its layered Stairway to Heaven-style acoustic opening to its occasional Paint It Black-esque clean six-string flavorings, the Alter Bridge frontman wears his influences on his sleeve here, and to phenomenal effect.
On the track’s conception, Kennedy says: “From a lyrical standpoint, the first half serves as a warning. It paints a picture of a very dark dystopian future. The second half breaks from the bleak outlook to remind us that we can do better if we remember who we are and what we were meant to be. Cool heads prevail in times of change.”
On the record as a whole, Kennedy has promised that it’ll rock “a little harder” and that there'll be “a lot of guitar silliness on it”. Naturally, we can’t wait. (SR)
Hannah Jadagu - What is Going On?
The title track of the debut EP from 18 year-old New York-by-way-of-Texas singer/songwriter Hannah Jadagu, What is Going On? is one of the better ‘song of the summer’ candidates we’ve heard thus far in this young year.
With a Strat as her weapon of choice, Jadagu coats the song’s anxious lyrics with a breezy, perfect ’n’ simple riff. Just the right touch of distortion, a catchy lead guitar hook, and warm washes of synths as background muscle? Can’t ask for much more than that. (JM)
Julian Lage – Saint Rose
It’s only March, but – between his new signature Collings guitar, the 470 JL – and the announcement of Squint, his first album for the legendary Blue Note Records, jazz guitar ace Julian Lage has already had one hell of a year.
At the heart of Saint Rose, the album’s first single, lies an easy-to-grasp (but stupendously gorgeous, mind you) progression, and an equally dashing melody.
Of course, Lage doesn’t leave it at that though – weaving in and out of the changes with tasteful lead guitar excursions that touch on the proud tradition and timeless beauty of his Blue Note predecessors, and his influences from the rock, funk and experimental worlds.
No matter which direction he’s taking a piece, Lage imbues his music (and guitar lessons, some of which he has authored for this very publication) with an accessibility and warmth rare for a jazz guitarist, or any guitarist, of his skill and caliber. Saint Rose – with those sublimely handled changes and virtuosity-only-for-seasoning approach – is a perfect example of this. (JM)
Annale feat. Mateus Asato – Goodbye
It seems an age since we were last treated to the neo-soul sorcery of former Instagram guitar star Mateus Asato, after he recently announced he was taking an extended break from music.
And though the social media music scene seems that little bit more empty without Asato’s silky fretboard-spanning slides, we have been treated to a real blast from the past with Annale’s new single Goodbye, which sees the LA-based singer-songwriter recruit Mateus for a reworking of her Korean-language song of the same name.
It’s everything you could want and more – clean single-coil sounds, thick melodic flurries and a smattering of bite-y hooks, with Asato seemingly given free reign to do what he does best: tear it up on the guitar.
While it’s not a comeback, it’s a reminder that Asato is up there with the very best, and that he can turn a mere cameo into a show-stopping display of his guitar playing powers. The guitar world will welcome him with open arms when he’s ready to return. (MO)
DZ Deathrays - Fear the Anchor (feat Ecca Vandal)
One of Australia’s loudest exports go, well, one louder with the addition of Melbourne vocalist Ecca Vandal, who adds extra edge to the band’s already serrated anti-hate punk.
Of course, it’s the twin-guitar attack – no bass here, thank you – that grabs your attention and won’t let go. And while the filthy verse riffs are classic DZ, that stop chorus hints at more anthemic things ahead from forthcoming fifth album, Positive Rising: Part 2.
Major props must also be awarded for the group’s recently announced Positive Rising grant, which kits out regional Australian bands with Fender gear and lessons. Nicely. (MAB)
The Go! Team - World Remember Me Now
The lead single from Brighton, UK indie stalwarts The Go! Team’s upcoming sixth album, Get Up Sequences Part One, World Remember Me Now takes the mundane and makes it spectacular.
For those who’ve spent the last year exclusively working from home, World Remember Me Now may hit quite hard – "What’s living really anyway?/When honey yesterday’s, a carbon copy of tomorrow”.
Guitarist Ian Parton though, turns the song into much more of a celebration than a lament. Against the backdrop of jubilant horn hits and steel drum runs, Parton turns in some brilliantly funky, on-the-money rhythm guitar work and zany leads. 2020s-era ennui has never sounded this fun! (JM)
Danko Jones – I Want Out
Serving up your weekly slice of no-frills, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll, it’s Danko Jones. Ahead of their recently-announced 10th studio album Power Trio, the Toronto hard rock juggernauts just dropped its first single and opener, I Want Out.
While the guitar work in this one is born of a tried-and-tested compositional blueprint, frontman Danko Jones stamps it as his own, delivering an riotous array of gain-cranked powerchords washed in a characteristically chunky tone. (SR)
TEKE::TEKE – Yoru Ni
Put on Yoru Ni, the latest offering from Montreal-based Japanese pysch punk band TEKE::TEKE, and you’ll be at your wits’ end trying to put your finger on what you’re listening to. That is, of course, the highest form of praise one can bestow, with Yoru Ni putting on display the band’s fearless and fresh approach to songwriting.
The brainchild of guitarist Serge Nakauchi Pelletier, the seven-piece ensemble has humble roots as a tribute band for Japanese axe wielder Takeshi Terauchi, but has since transformed into a totally new beast altogether, influenced by the country’s guitar-inspired Eleki scene.
Listen to Yoru Ni, and you'll be in the Wild West one moment and riding waves the next, courtesy of dissonant bends and quick-fire guitar twangs. Watch the music video, and you’ll be partying with a Gatsby-era crew in one room and moshing with a garage band in the other. Put it this way – TEKE::TEKE's exotic blend of Japanese balladry, surf rock and psychedelia is not to be slept on. (MO)
Prosperina - Deep Never
The heavy paths of grunge and stoner converge in UK hard-rockers Prosperina, whose new single – the first from new album, Flag – carries the emotional weight of Alice in Chains and the progressive tendencies of Soundgarden.
Deep Never is driven by a 7/8 juggernaut of a main riff – not to mention an arms-held-high chorus – but it’s the eerie delay and modulation-drenched leads that elevate its atmosphere above your common-or-garden alt-rock. (MAB)
Arion – I Love to Be Your Enemy
Finnish power metal stalwarts Arion – who initially found success after appearing on Eurovision qualification program UMK – are currently gearing up to release their third LP, Vultures Die Alone.
Of course, following their 2018 sophomore effort, Life Is Not Beautiful, was never going to be an easy feat, but thus far, the quintet have proved they are more than up to the task.
Perhaps the heaviest song the band have recorded to date, I Love to Be Your Enemy sees guitarist Iivo Kaipainen take the instrumental reigns, utilizing galloping palm-muted lines and furious alternate picking passages to lead the track’s grand movie soundtrack-style accompaniment. (SR)
Hunter Hayes – If You Change Your Mind
Taken from his upcoming album, Red Sky (Part II), Hunter Hayes’ new helping of larger-than-life pop euphoria If You Change Your Mind resembles the very best of what the Grammy-nominated, guitar-wielding singer-songwriter has to offer – namely, catchy hooks, crowd-evoking choruses and tasty guitar parts.
Hayes is on top form heading into his fourth full-length studio outing, combining dreamy synths and a commanding lyrical flow with a swaggering four-to-the-floor kick drum, resulting in a track reminiscent of recent Keith Urban records.
At the crux of the track is a subtle, ever-present guitar line that gets its time to shine in the form of a blistering solo after spending much of the song as a supporting character. The solo – packed with whole-note bends and tasty runs – is worth the wait, as we're sure Hayes' album will be when it is released later this year. (MO)
New Pagans - Harbour
Rapidly rising Northern Ireland alt-rockers New Pagans drop debut album The Seed, the Vessel, the Roots and All tomorrow, and if it’s anything like this verifiable banger, it will be a record to cherish.
Harbour is an irresistible combination of post- and pop-punk: it’s wiry, full of energy and has one helluva singalong chorus. We love it. (MAB)