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From old-school soul to 8-string chug: here are this week's essential guitar tracks

Bartees Strange
(Image credit: Bartees Strange/YouTube)

Welcome to Guitar World’s weekly roundup of the musical highlights from the, erm, world of guitar. Every seven days (or thereabouts), we endeavor to bring you a selection of songs from across the guitar universe, all with one thing in common: our favorite instrument plays a starring role.

Bartees Strange – Heavy Heart

What is it? The up-and-coming singer-songwriter’s first single with 4AD. People (including – guilty as charged – this particular writer) love to talk about artists who elude the fuzzy boundaries of genre, but few do so as skillfully as Strange, who incorporates the restlessness of mid-aughts indie rock, hip-hop, post-hardcore and some of the twists and turns of math-rock into this brilliant song. 

Standout guitar moment: Soaked beautifully in delay, the song’s outro solo has more than a slight touch of the stadium-filling magic and verve of The Edge in it. 

For fans of: Bloc Party, Illuminati Hotties, Bachelor

Jackson Maxwell

Bleed From Within – Levitate

What is it? The second single from the Scottish metalcore stalwarts’ upcoming sixth album, Shrine. Fusing their usual destructive and pummeling electric guitar riffs with delicately arranged orchestration and one of the most expansive choruses of their career to date, Levitate serves as a snapshot of a band truly at the apex of their game. 

Standout guitar moment: Following a lead guitar-driven interlude at the 2:32 mark, Craig “Goonzi” Gowans offers up a soaring, melody-centric solo, before the song once again enters full-throttle mode with a savage breakdown.

For fans of: Memphis May Fire, Whitechapel, Born of Osiris

– Sam Roche

Hedras – Angels

What is it? The Guatemalan prog-metal wizard takes a Polyphia turn on his latest solo release, with a sub-shaking EDM production and crystalline split-coil clean tones from his newly finished Cort X700 Mutility.

Standout guitar moment: That drop at the two-minute mark finds Hedras unleashing a flurry of modal lead lines that are ultra-tight in their execution but with a swagger that lends them a vocal, human touch.

For fans of: Polyphia, Jakub Zytecki, Unprocessed

– Michael Astley-Brown

Meshuggah – Light the Shortening Fuse

What is it? Ahead of their forthcoming ninth album, Immutable – which arrives April 1 via Atomic Fire Records – Light the Shortening Fuse is its second single after January’s The Abysmal Eye. In classic Meshuggah fashion, the track taps heavily into odd time signatures, high-octane breakdowns and eight-string guitar riffs, offering a glimpse of the destruction to come when the full album drops.

Standout guitar moment: The main riff delivered by guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström is typically chuggy, and is sure to be well received by any longtime Meshuggah fan.

For fans of: Periphery, Gojira, Animals As Leaders

– Sam Roche

Pixies – Human Crime

What is it? A life-affirming slice of alt-rock from eternal legends of the genre. The standalone single is Pixies’ first new material in two years, and arrives ahead of their return to touring after a pandemic-induced hiatus from live shows.

Standout guitar moment: Producer Tom Dalgety has played a blinder with those explosive, fist-in-the-air chord tones, but props are also due to Joey Santiago’s lyrical solo, which riffs beautifully off Black Francis’s vocal line.

For fans of: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Hüsker Dü

– Michael Astley-Brown

Larry McCray – Breaking News

What is it? The second single from Blues Without You, the Joe Bonamassa-produced comeback LP from unsung blues guitar hero Larry McCray. Shaped by the seemingly endless crises that dominate the news from day to day, this is a slice of old-school, perfectly-arranged soul – propulsive horns, vivacious strings and all. 

Standout guitar moment: The natural candidate would be McCray’s stellar, 16-bar outburst in the song’s middle, but listen to the way he holds that one note at 4:47 – for those couple of seconds, time almost seems to stand still. 

For fans of: Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Joanne Shaw Taylor

Jackson Maxwell

Envy of None – Look Inside

What is it? The second slice of psychedelic, industrial-tinged rock from Alex Lifeson’s expansive new project. It’s refreshing to hear such a bona fide legend as the Rush guitarist sound so contemporary with his approach to tone and production – this dreamy, atmospheric slice of alt-rock is masterfully put together.

Standout guitar moment: Those modulated leads that weave in and out of the track’s ethereal production bear all the hallmarks of Lifeson’s style, updated for the 2020s.

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Rush

– Michael Astley-Brown

Paleface – The Orphan

What is it? Swiss metal powerhouse Paleface’s latest single, taken from their upcoming album, Fear & Dagger. It’s visceral and ruthless in its brutality, scarcely letting up in its all-out six-and-a-half-minute audial assault. And as it shifts tempos and rhythmic patterns throughout, it continuously retains its sonic intrigue. Not an easy feat for a song of this length.

Standout guitar moment: Yannick Lehmann’s guitar solo at the 5:10 mark serves as a six-string smash-and-grab, occupying only 12 seconds, but deploying squealing divebombs and a dizzying rapid-fire ascending pull-off line.

For fans of: Slipknot, Left to Suffer

– Sam Roche

Adult Mom – 91

What is it? A B-side from Driver, the stellar 2021 full-length from Adult Mom, the project of singer-songwriter Stevie Knipe. It’s a testament to that album’s strength that this vivid breakup song somehow didn’t make the cut.

Standout guitar moment: Just as they were on Driver, Adult Mom lead guitarist Allegra Eidinger is simply magnificent on this tune, adding depth and color to the verses with radiant fills.

For fans of: Radiator Hospital, Lomelda, Free Cake for Every Creature

Jackson Maxwell

PUP – Matilda

What is it? The Toronto punks’ ode to frontman Stefan Babcock’s forgotten guitar, Matilda, complete with one of the most moving videos you’ll ever witness as a guitarist. The track itself is filled with raw power chord stabs, and lyrics surrounding the abandonment of one instrument for another, newer, shinier model: “As you fret my frets decay / You pick up your other and you strum away”. Sorry, we seem to have something in our eye.

Standout guitar moment: That wailing, breaking-apart guitar tone in the track’s middle eight: it actually sounds like a guitar weeping.

For fans of: Joyce Manor, The Dirty Nil, Remo Drive

– Michael Astley-Brown

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Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar (opens in new tab), Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).

With contributions from