Gossamer tremolo picking and the stuff of Phrygian nightmares: This week’s essential guitar tracks

Gossamer tremolo picking and the stuff of Phrygian nightmares: This week’s essential guitar tracks
Emily Wolfe performs onstage at the Haute Spot in Cedar Park, Texas on June 26, 2021

(Image credit: Rick Kern/Getty Images)

Hello, and welcome to a new Spotify playlist-embiggened Essential Guitar Tracks. As you may well know, 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.

Our goal is to give you an overview of the biggest tracks, our editor’s picks and anything you may have missed. We’re pushing horizons and taking you out of your comfort zone – because, as guitarists, that’s something we should all be striving for in our playing. 

So, here are our highlights from the past seven days – now with a Spotify playlist (scroll to the bottom for the latest additions).

Fiddlehead – Fifteen to Infinity

Perfectly paired and pristinely panned guitar licks and riffs that ricochet across the frequency spectrum form the core of Fifteen to Infinity, Fiddlehead’s slightly Foo Fighters-flavored single that is basically impossible not to bob the head along to. There’s so much glassy guitar goodness to unpick in the dense web of layered guitars here, so repeat listening is recommended. (MO)

HotWax – Drop

Ahead of a plum US support slot with Royal Blood, everyone’s favorite gang of 18-year-old grunge acolytes named after an Electro-Harmonix pedal have, ahem, dropped a headstrong single that, were it released in another decade, could have been blowing eardrums at CBGB’s or The Crocodile alike. All fuzz and vinegar, Drop shows a punkier side to the UK trio, who are already tipped to be the next generation’s big guitar band. (MAB)

Guns N’ Roses – Perhaps

Driven by a barrelhouse piano lick, Perhaps brings one of the world’s biggest stadium-rock bands down to Earth a little bit, without sacrificing what they’re good at. Said lick gives the band’s latest stand-alone single, initially, an intimate feel – like you’re hearing them play it at a club or dive. Any images of this band playing tiny, humid rooms, though, evaporate when the song’s chorus – and that familiar flex of Stones-y, dual-guitar Les Paul muscle – tanks over you. Bound to be a crowd-pleaser, this one. (JM)

Emily Wolfe – Walk in My Shoes

Having reignited her relationship with Epiphone for one 2023’s most desirable signature guitars – the new-look Sheraton Stealth – Emily Wolfe has now put the six-string skills that made her so deserving of not one, but two, signature models to good use in Walk in My Shoes. Her first single of 2023, Walk in My Shoes is a three-minute battering ram, calling upon copious amounts of Kasabian-esque fuzz, filtered licks and quirky layers that pave the way for what could be a new direction for Wolfe. (MO)

Born of Osiris – Torchbearer

Lee McKinney has clearly been practising his modes – the riffs in this metalcore punisher are the stuff of Phrygian nightmares. The BOO fellas describe Torchbearer as a darker song, and with those sinister staccato lines they ain’t kidding, but the harmonized leads at the track’s conclusion do provide something of a palm-muted light at the end of the drop-tuned tunnel. (MAB)

Olivia Rodrigo – Bad Idea Right?

It was just two years ago that Olivia Rodrigo channeled the bratty pop-punk and grunge guitars of her youth into a series of angsty pop smashes that shot her to superstardom. It’s difficult to argue with the songwriting skill that got her there, and that that lays behind her latest smash, Bad Idea Right? (give one listen to that perfect power-pop chorus). Peep those almost-dissonant guitar fills and (even feedback!) that elbow their way into the picture before those choruses, though, plus the Morello-esque closing solo. Rodrigo’s not afraid to add some weirdness into the equation while she conquers the charts and pop radio. (JM)

Japanese kawaii metal outfit Babymetal have released a song called Metali!!! with Tom Morello. With that information alone, you probably know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with this one. And, sure enough, Babymetal and their Rage collaborator deliver the goods through battering riffs and an off-kilter, Whammy-tinged solo. (MO)

CLT DRP – I See My Body Through You

Given his pedalboard weighs a sciatica-inducing 40kg, it was only a matter of time before UK noisenik Scott Reynolds turned his hand to more ambient textures. His latest release with UK experimental punk outfit CLT DRP dials back his trademark ring mod for gossamer tremolo picking and uber-chonk octave riffs that would have Tom Morello pumping his fist with approval. (MAB)

Sufjan Stevens – So You Are Tired

Never one to follow a conventional path, indie icon Sufjan Stevens waited five years to follow-up his devastating, hugely-acclaimed 2015 full-length, Carrie & Lowell with The Ascension, a sprawling collection of electronic-driven landscapes punctuated – here and there – by some of Stevens’ most electrifying guitar work in years. New single So You Are Tired finds him brilliantly returning to the lushly orchestrated baroque-pop sound that brought him fame, on the back of some ever-intricate acoustic work. (JM)

Sundara Karma – Baby Blue

Sundara Karma, one of England’s finest indie rock exports in recent years, have returned with the helter skelter cranked guitars of Baby Blue – a rollercoaster romp that carries the charm of early years Vaccines (with some amped up Sundara spice, of course) and the infectious layerings of fellow Brit outfit Circa Waves. Having said that, Baby Blue is its own beast, and when paired with previous single Friends of Mine, sets the scene for what could be the band’s strongest LP yet. (MO)

Sammy Boller – Midnight Garden

The latest instrumental anthem from Detroit guitar virtuoso Sammy Boller, whose penchant for awe-inspiring melodies and slick fretboard navigation takes center stage for a kaleidoscopic three-and-a-half-minutes. Though clean riffs and some bite-y licks dominate proceedings, stick around for that solo at 2:30, which combines the best of Boller’s playing: gravity-defying technicality and heartfelt phrasing. (MO)

Oxymorrons – Look Alive (Netic)

No, we haven’t accidentally uploaded the wrong song, and no, this isn’t a flat-out R&B track – though the initial measures may suggest as much, just wait until those pummeling guitars come in and you’ll see. Instead, Look Alive (Netic) is a classic example of Oxymorrons’ self-coined ‘melanin punk’ sound, and an insight into their hybrid mashup of battering riffs and contemporary hip hop style. It’s got everything a great guitar song needs – high energy riffage and off-kilter solos – but in a rare worlds-colliding 21st century package. (MO)

Also on this week’s playlist…

  • Mountain Caller – The Archivist
  • Hot Milk – Breathing Underwater
  • Death Cab for Cutie – An Arrow In The Wall
  • The Guru Guru – Make Less Babies
  • The Pleasure Dome – Down The Alley
  • Heavy Lungs – Head Tilter
  • Beatenberg – Don’t Call Her Over to You

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

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