April showers got ya down? Let some sunshine in with our gathering of guitar-dom’s most exciting new offerings of this past week.
On tap this week: a surging, boundary-pushing multi-part post-rock epic from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an awe-inspiring chops display from Sammy Boller, a riotous Paul McCartney remix from Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, a red-hot hip-hop guitar crossover from Malina Moye and Bella Thorne, and a whole lot more.
Hasten in spring then, with a chef's pick of what's new 'n' cool in guitar. You won't regret it!
Paul McCartney – Slidin' (EOB Remix)
We all knew that the upcoming Paul McCartney cover album McCartney III Imagined, for which the Beatles icon recruited a dizzying array of guitar heroes, was going to have something special in store for us. Now, those not-so-subtle suspicions have been well and truly confirmed with the release of Ed O’Brien’s remix of McCartney’s Slidin’.
The Radiohead legend’s tinkering transforms the track into a high-octane rock-infused rollercoaster, and juices the high-gain guitar stabs and percussive punches to the absolute extreme. This time round, the thrash-y strums are partnered with a plethora of synths, with the super-charged track also featuring a new-and-improved, head-banging-inducing middle eight that boasts a bounty of intricate guitar interplay.
O’Brien’s remix follows up Dominic Fike’s rendition of The Kiss of Venus and Beck’s cover of Find My Way, with the album nicely shaping up to be one of those formidable always-on-repeat records. As if we weren’t already spoiled rotten, we still have Phoebe Bridgers’ take on Seize The Day and St. Vincent’s remix of Women and Wives. Lucky us. (MO)
Bella Thorne feat. Malina Moye - Phantom
This gritty hip-hop banger from actor-singer-model Bella Thorne brings electric guitar to the forefront, driven by the polished playing of blues-rock titan Malina Moye.
It’s no coincidence that Fender recently tapped Moye up for a lesson on writing emotional solos – Phantom’s multiple solo spots highlight her singing vibrato, Santana-style triplet runs and two-hand tapping flourishes, which top off the track’s dark intensity. (MAB)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Cliffs Gaze / cliffs’ gaze at empty waters’ rise / ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE
For just about 25 years now, no band on Earth has made rock music quite as apocalyptic, volcanic and cinematic as this now-legendary Montreal ten-piece.
And what better time for a band whose first mainstream exposure was providing the haunting musical backdrop for an unforgettable scene in one of the great pandemic films of the 21st century to return with a new album?
The highlight of said album, the colorfully named G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!, Cliffs Gaze / cliffs’ gaze at empty waters’ rise / ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE crackles with tension and roars with triumph.
Dripping with tremolo and feedback, the many layers of guitars in the song’s first movement wait impatiently in the wings before a huge riff finally punches through the sonic haze two-and-a-half minutes in. From there, it’s a slow build to the speeding-down-a-hill march that defines the song’s second half, IMAX-scale riffing powering it all the way through.
The song finally collapses into a beautiful cacophony of church-bell-like noise-guitar thrashing. Of course, these sounds could just be samples of actual church bells, but trying to parse out how exactly this incredible ensemble creates the sounds it puts on record has always been part of the fun. (JM)
Man on Man - Stohner
We’re a teeny, tiny bit late on this one (you just would not believe the month we’re having), but when you hear this almighty slab of anthemic distortion, we hope you’ll forgive our tardiness.
Man on Man is the new quarantine project from partners in love, life and music, Faith No More keyboard player Roddy Bottum and fellow musician Joey Holman, whose forthcoming self-titled album is due out on May 7.
Stohner is aptly titled: its sludgy, mid-tempo groove will tickle hardened shoegaze-rockers’ fancy, but there’s an optimism and pop sensibility here that points towards a wider indie-rock demographic.
And it’s all delivered with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek video that reinforces the track’s themes of queerness and coming together. That’s a gorgeous ES-339 and Starcaster pairing, too. (MAB)
Sammy Boller – Ritual Lights
The guitar world is awash with able virtuosos these days, but few possess the raw, unbridled feel of Sammy Boller. On his latest single Ritual Lights, the Detroit shredder deploys an array of awe-inspiring lead lines, from the gorgeous two-handed-tapping of the intro to the soaring wah-drenched guitar solo around the 1:53 mark.
Interestingly, the guitar solo we hear on the recording was Boller’s first take, as his wah pedal gave out shortly afterwards. We’re pretty sure the six-string heat channeling through his fingers fried its circuitry, but the jury’s still out on that one. (SR)
Renforshort – exception
Renforshort has returned with her second sonic offering of 2021 as she gears up to release a follow-up EP to her debut outing teenage angst later this year. A polar opposite to virtual reality, which dropped in February, exception sees the singer-songwriter don a double-tracked acoustic guitar with simply gorgeous results.
The acoustic lines play catch up to Renforshort's voice, delicately hopping from one chord to another, before a momentum-building prechorus gives way to imposing open-chord strums and subtle strings.
The track transforms from flowing acoustic ballad into a driving anthem by the time the room-rumbling 808 and reverb-riddled drum machine kicks in, with layers of orchestral strings partnering Renforshort’s range-spanning vocals. A tasty guitar solo crops up near the end of the track, which, thanks to a bite-y, gain-infused tone, cuts through the mix to deliver a sweet blend of enveloping slides and wailing whole-note bends.
Renforshort is going from strength to strength, and that new EP can’t come soon enough. (MO)
Hyro The Hero – Legendary (feat. Brandon Saller of Atreyu)
Hyro The Hero has recruited a string of top-tier metal vocalists for his past few singles – including David Draiman of Disturbed, Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills and Chad Gray of Hellyeah – and he delivers the goods once again on his latest cut, Legendary.
Enlisting the help of Atreyu frontman Brandon Saller, the Houston-bred rapper once again blurs the lines between hip-hop and heavy metal, serving up a pulsing arrangement propped up by an intermittent wall of overdriven guitar. If you’re looking for a track with energy this week, this is it. (SR)
Rostam – Changephobia
The fourth single and title track from Rostam Batmanglij’s second solo album, Changephobia is an honest-as-they-come portrait of anxiety and avoidance delivered with an arrangement as blissful as a cup of perfect coffee on a quiet Sunday morning.
Aside from his unimpeachable work as a member of Vampire Weekend, Batmanglij has become an A-level producer, manning the boards for Clairo, Haim, Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen and many more. If you’re curious about why he’s been able to develop such a stellar resume in just a few years, giving this tune a listen will serve as more than a sufficient explanation.
The song’s honey-glazed riff is the perfect opening hook, ceding the spotlight whenever necessary to the song’s blood-pressure-lowering sax leads and playful piano (the latter a hallmark of so many of Batmanglij’s greatest arrangements). For a song with “phobia” as part of its name, this plays like a long walk on the beach. (JM)
Sumo Cyco – Vertigo
Canadian alt-metallers Sumo Cyco are gearing up to release their third studio album, Initiation, and judging by the three singles released thus far – Bystander, No Surrender and Vertigo – it looks like we’re in for the quartet’s best work yet.
Vertigo sees Skye “Sever” Sweetnam and co deliver a selection of endlessly catchy pop-esque hooks over a modern-tinged bedrock of pummeling distorted guitars and synths.
Says Sweetnam: “Vertigo was written pre-pandemic, but it’s crazy how we have been living through some of the most disorienting times in our lives. [The track] is all about trying to hold onto your sanity and self against any outside force.” (SR)
Ten Tonnes – Everything You Got
Not that his already impressive discography was lacking an indie rock lung-burster, Ten Tonnes – stage name for Ethan James Barnett – has treated us to yet another incredibly infectious tune in the form of Everything You Got.
Proficient vocalist and possessor of exhilarating guitar abilities, Barnett doesn’t pull his punches in his newest release and puts the pedal to the metal from the get-go, layering huge swathes of acoustic and electric guitars underneath his commanding lyrics.
The track is littered with an abundance of decorative lead lines, which will give you plenty of opportunity to practice your air guitar chops before the next chorus comes around and has you singing along to the oh-so catch vocal hook.
With the release of his second single since the release of his 2019 self-titled debut album, 2021 could be an exciting year for the up-and-coming, guitar-wielding indie rock protege. (MO)
Crumb - BNR
Set phasers to… hypnotize: this latest slice of dream-pop from the US indie-rock outfit is positively swathed in the aforementioned modulation, the perfect complement to the ambiguous chord progression that encircles the track.
BNR takes Crumb’s already woozy ethereality and injects it with a trip-hop aesthetic that’s utterly enrapturing. More, please. (MAB)