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From tortured neo-soul to festival-ready indie: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Maxwell Hughes of The Lumineers performs onstage during Global Citizen Live on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California
(Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Just as with 2020, it can certainly be said that few things have gone according to plan in 2021. But hey! The year’s brought us some amazing music, and – by the looks of this week – there’s still more to come in the year’s final quarter.

Recent days have seen IDLES re-emerge with a razor-tipped piece of soul called The Beachland Ballroom, Ghost return just in time for Halloween season with the appropriately spooky (and heavy) Hunter’s Moon, The Lumineers plug in and change things up on Brightside, and Wet Leg treat us to some sprightly indie-pop on Wet Dream.

There's plenty more where that came from, so why not finish the month strong with some of our favorite new songs?

The Lumineers – Brightside 

Since The Lumineers Ho Hey’d their way to top of the folk rock world back in 2012, the two-piece outfit – composed of founding members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites – have been a resolute household name, thanks to their accomplished stripped-back, acoustic-based discography.

But for Brightside – the lead single from their upcoming album of the same name – The Lumineers have totally flipped the script: they’ve picked up an electric guitar and employed a noticeably more overdriven tonal direction.

In what is a fairly radical change in relation to the rest of the band's repertoire, Brightside is a fresh and welcome release, one that makes ample use of an easy-going, rumbling guitar hook that sees The Lumineers lean away from their acoustic soundscapes towards a more festival-esque indie-rock flavor.

If it’s a sign of things to come, Brightside the album could be a big turning point for The Lumineers, who seem to have shed the shackles of the acoustic for something even bigger – their Ho Hey for 2021, perhaps. (MO)

Wet Leg - Wet Dream

The debut single from this offset-slinging UK duo, Chaise Longue, saw them win plaudits from Hayley Williams and Iggy Pop, chalking up an almighty one-million video views in the process, and its followup looks likely to generate similar hysteria.

Of course, it would be easy to attribute that to Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers’ irreverent, catchy lyrical stylings – “Baby, do you want to come home with me / I’ve got Buffalo '66 on DVD” – but it’s teamed with a smart songwriting sensibility that crams an awful lot into two-and-a-half minutes.

There are nods to post-punk, disco and riot grrrl, and it’s all wrapped up in a chorus riff that would certainly get Albert Hammond Jr’s nod of approval. They’re already being hailed as one of the country’s most exciting guitar bands, but if Wet Leg can maintain this kind of momentum, we’re in for some serious – and not-so-serious – anthems over the coming months. (MAB)

Ghost – Hunter’s Moon

Tobias Forge – who recently discarded the mantle of Cardinal Copia to once again resume his role as Papa Emeritus – is back with his band of Nameless Ghouls for their first new single in two years.

Though the nature of the track is somewhat haunting – it’s set to appear in the end credits of the upcoming slasher movie, Halloween Kills, and its accompanying music video bears several horror references – in typical Ghost fashion, it’s musically quite upbeat, often utilizing a major key.

This juxtaposition between subject matter and composition is something that the Swedish rock outfit have always nailed, and they do it to superior effect on this new single, seamlessly blending pristine clean guitar lines with heavier and more distorted riffs throughout. (SR)

Converge – Blood Moon

When Converge joined forces with Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm and Stephen Brodsky in 2016 for a set at the Roadburn Festival, it triggered a musical chain reaction that would go on to be the catalyst behind Bloodmoon: I – an upcoming collaborative effort that was announced earlier this week.

The album’s seven-minute lead single, Blood Moon, is an eerily assembled sign of things to come – swamping riffs, unrelenting guitar sucker punches and a vocal concoction brewed together in a cauldron of Wolfe’s atmospheric tones and Jacob Bannon’s bruising wails.

Said to be an effort “grander than the typical four-piece” dynamic of conventional Converge, Bloodmoon: I – surely to be followed up by a Bloodmoon: II somewhere down the line – promises to see each respective collaborator at the edge of their musical comfort zones, which can only mean one thing: it's going to be one darn good album. (MO)

IDLES – The Beachland Ballroom

Few people foresaw the turn IDLES would take on The Beachland Ballroom – the first single from their upcoming album, Crawler. Even the band’s guitarist, Mark Bowen, said “I didn’t know Joe could sing like that," of frontman Joe Talbot’s incredible performance on the unexpectedly soulful song.

Soulful it is, though, with an elegant waltz of a rhythm, a church pews-like organ highlighting the song’s chord progression, and Talbot’s vocals, which come shockingly close to a classic pop croon at points.

Of course though, this is an IDLES song, and before long, Talbot is screaming “Damage! Damage! Damage!” over the band’s increasingly frenzied attack.

Bowen and fellow guitarist Lee Kiernan manage to tie these disparate strains together by sneaking some of their trademark dissonance and discord into the song’s more gentle half, and turbocharging its second half with some nifty call-and-response, dual-guitar work.

As big as IDLES have gotten in such a short span of time, The Beachland Ballroom, astonishing and surprisingly accessible as it is, has the potential to really kick this British quintet’s ascent into high gear. (JM)

Limp Bizkit – Dad Vibes

When Limp Bizkit played a brand-new song over the PA during their set at Lollapalooza 2021, we were naturally dying to hear a studio version. So when said studio version dropped earlier today, we were suitably stoked.

The fresh cut – which comes ahead of the nu-metal giants’ as-yet-unannounced sixth album – sees a rather middle class-looking Fred Durst serve up some killer rhymes over the thrilling electric guitar work of Wes Borland, who judging by his outfit at that Lollapalooza performance, has no intention of embracing the conventional dad look any time soon. (SR)

The Lathums – I Won't Lie 

In case you haven’t heard, The Lathums – an indie rock four-piece from Wigan, England – are on course to beat Drake – multi-award winning and chat-topping rap powerhouse – to the number one spot on the UK’s album charts this week. Oh, and they’re about to do it with their debut album, How Beautiful Life Can Be.

Listen to I Won't Lie and you’ll see why the group, who have released their first-ever studio effort to rave reviews, have made such tsunami-sized waves with just 12 tracks. Harking back to early years Arctic Monkeys with a smidge of The Smiths and a healthy helping of contemporary indie rock revivalism, I Won't Lie is the epitome of The Lathums.

Irresistible electric guitar hooks, effortless strums, charging bass pumps, captivating grooves and a piercing lead line all amalgamate to form one cruising listening experience that gets straight to the point – the point being three minutes of Really Good Music. 

It’s a genuine David versus Goliath moment for grass roots bands, and if anyone can pull it off, The Lathums certainly can. (MO)

Bartees Strange, Ohmme & Eric Slick - Province

Even 15 years after its release, no-one has managed to make a record that sounds anything like TV On the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain. Highlights from the album abound, but Province, a towering ballad that surges and swoons over David Sitek’s alternately funky and tornado-like guitar playing (and features David Bowie, for good measure), remains one of its unforgettable milestones.

Recreating the song’s all-enveloping sonic storm is near-impossible, and to their credit – on their new collaborative cover of the song –  Bartees Strange, Ohmme and Eric Slick don’t try to.

Opting to replicate the original song’s sharp-edged but simple electric riff on an acoustic, Slick leaves ample room for the voices of Strange and Ohmme – a duo comprised of Sima Cunningham & Macie Stewart – to beautifully intermingle with his own.  

Province, with its near-heavenly aura, is an incredibly difficult song to accurately capture, but this trio’s managed to do so perfectly. We certainly wouldn’t complain if they had more collabs up their sleeve in the future… (JM)

Orchards – Drive Me Home

Any new release from the UK math-pop outfit is cause for celebration, and Drive Me Home showcases guitarist Sam Rushton’s technicolor approach to effects pedals in full force.

There’s a more ethereal edge to his usual multi-octave, POG-bolstered tone here, with some wide stereo delay and reverb lending his irresistible riffs an ’80s aesthetic, which suits Orchards’ feelgood vibes down to a tee.

And, naturally, it’s all topped off with an earworm of a chorus hook that has a 97.68% chance of remaining firmly lodged in your brain until new EP Trust Issues arrives in November. (MAB)