“The guitar is dead.” The chances are you’ve heard that phrase, or some variation on it, over the last few years – it seems that barely a month passes without a celebrity or mainstream news outlet reading the last rites to the humble six-string.
You’ve probably also read some of these articles. In 2017, The Washington Post broke the news of “The slow, secret death of the six-string electric,” while The Independent last year proclaimed: “The electric guitar itself appears to be facing an existential threat.” Even Eric Clapton has had a go, musing in 2017 that, “maybe the guitar is over…”
The guitar has simply done what the guitar has always done – evolved. From Robert Johnson to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin to Nirvana, Oasis to John Mayer, the guitar has remained the defining tool of popular music over the last 100 years because of its chameleonic ability to change with the trends.
By way of evidence, we present The New Breed – 50 diverse young musicians who represent the most exciting new talent in contemporary guitar music. Some are boundary-pushing virtuosos, or sonic experimentalists planting the guitar flag in hitherto unexplored genres, others are claiming the instrument for themselves in spaces where in the past, they’ve not always been welcome.
The guitar is not dead, the guitar is thriving – read on to see what a wonderful six-string world The New Breed are building…
In the space of a fortnight last year, this publication asked modern blues titans Gary Clark Jr and Eric Gales the same question – who’s the next big thing? The answer in both cases was one word: ‘Kingfish’. Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram (featured above) grew up in the blues heartland of Mississippi and from his earliest days, the 20-year-old has been determined to keep the tradition alive and bring the music to a new generation.
Ingram’s talent attracted attention almost immediately and quickly saw him marked out for big things – he played his first gig at 11 and was playing for the Obamas at the White House by the time he was 15 – but unlike so many guitar prodigies, Ingram hasn’t stagnated, instead continuing to develop his tone, technique and feel. “I play more tastefully now,” he told us. “I was getting a lot of, ‘Man, you’re good, but you need to slow down.’ Even players who played fast were telling me to slow down! You can never stop learning, so I took their knowledge and applied it to what I do.”
Listen to: Kingfish – Fresh Out
The 1975’s frontman Matt Healy is one of the most outspoken and charismatic figures in pop, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the band’s prodigiously talented lead guitarist Adam Hann doesn’t seem to get much attention, despite being in one of the biggest bands on the planet. But a closer listen to their varied back catalogue demonstrates the remarkably chameleonic nature of Hann’s guitar playing – from intricate guitar-pop to angular 80s neo-soul to abrasive lo-fi punk, he can inhabit them all, while always sounding uniquely like himself.
Listen to: The 1975 – Love Me
Filipino-British songwriter Beabadoobee (aka Bea Kristi) first signalled her songwriting talent at the age of 16, when a fan uploaded her song Coffee to YouTube, and it quickly went viral. She was snapped up by hip indie-pop kingmakers Dirty Hit, and in the two years since has honed her sound away from the standard acoustic singer-songwriter fare, pulling in a trove of 90s guitar influences and picking up a Mustang to create languid grunge-pop tunes that sound like they’re beamed straight from 1995.
Listen to: Beabadoobee – I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus
If you were a Grammy-nominated producer who’s worked with everyone from Alabama Shakes to John Legend, you’d probably be happy with that, right? Well, Blake Mills seems determined to make even the most industrious of us feel inadequate, by also demonstrating that he’s a fine songwriter and singer who’s in demand as both a deft acoustic fingerstylist and wonderfully melodic country player.
Listen to: Blake Mills – Hey Lover
If you want to walk onto Nashville’s famous Broadway holding a Telecaster, you better have your chops in order, because otherwise everyone and their grandma (literally) on that street will leave you in the dust. So when a teenage Daniel Donato saw the Don Kelley Band performing there – the legendary working band that spawned Brent Mason and Johnny Hiland – and declared he’d found the band he wanted to join. Two years of badgering and woodshedding later, and Donato earned his way in. Still only 20, Donato has since struck out on his own and established himself as one of the most in-demand players in Nashville.
Listen to: Daniel Donato – Always Been A Lover
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Had a blast playing at the Cardiff Dogs Home fundraiser down @thelansdownecardiff on Saturday. Well done to the organisers for raising so much money! Sad I didn’t win the massive giant stuffed dog but I still got the M dawg
A post shared by Boy Azooga (@boy_azooga) on Sep 30, 2019 at 12:51pm PDT
Boy Azooga’s remarkably refined debut album, 1, 2, Kung Fu!, feels like an 11-track residency inside Davey Newington’s head. And what a compellingly unique place it is, too – mashing up funk, soul, classic rock, pop and world music into a giant psychedelic smoothie, with Newington delivering hook after hummable hook along the way. He’s earned himself some famous fans, too, with Neil Young, Bob Dylan and both Gallagher brothers tagging Boy Azooga for support slots in the last year.
Listen to: Boy Azooga – Loner Boogie
Whitford is best known as the lead guitar foil to Phoebe Bridgers, but his solo work shows off the full palette of his remarkably inventive guitar playing, blending the atmospheric esoteric touches that he uses to such great effect in his day job with restrained country-tinged acoustic work and powerful electrified moments.
Listen to: Harrison Whitford – Take A Walk
It’s often said that the best communicators don’t waste their words, and 29-year-old Kentuckian Ian Noe isn’t one to overshare – he lets his spellbinding songs do the talking for him. Heavily influenced by legendary country-folk guitarist John Prine, Noe’s intricate fingerstyle provides the perfect bedrock to his wonderful vignettes of smalltown America.
Listen to: Ian Noe – Between The Country
It takes some chops to go on stage and trade licks with John Mayer every night, but Isaiah Sharkey knows exactly what he’s doing. After all, the 30-year-old has been playing Chicago’s jazz and blues clubs since he was 14 years old, and won a Grammy for his work on D’Angelo’s 2014 comeback album, Black Messiah.
“I try to give him his space so that he can be free to either play or not play guitar – my goal is to never be in his way,” he told us of his tours with Mayer, which he fits in around his solo work and teaching. “But he’s like, ‘Man, no, play! Play out! I know you know the parts, so just have fun with it, do your thing!’”
Listen to: Isaiah Sharkey – In Case
Austin hasn’t had a bad record when it comes to producing good guitar players – just ask Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson or Gary Clark Jr, and Jackie Venson might be the next name to add to that esteemed list. Despite attending the acclaimed Berklee College of Music, Venson didn’t pick up a guitar until her final year in 2010. Since then, she’s developed a wonderfully lyrical bluesy style, her fuzzed-up Strat tones and infectious character making her a star of the Instagram guitar scene.
Listen to: Jackie Venson – Next Life
Greta Van Fleet might get prickly when you compare them to Led Zeppelin, but given how rapidly the Michigan four-piece have exploded into the mainstream, it’s not just Josh Kiszka’s Plant-esque wail that they have in common. SG-toting 23-year-old guitarist Jake is the secret sauce in the GVF gumbo – blending bluesy feel, Southern-rock sizzle and yes, plenty of Pageisms, to create a wonderfully authentic classic-rock brew.
Listen to: Greta Van Fleet – When The Curtain Falls
Jared James Nichols
The world is not short of blues-rock guitar players – and with so much competition out there, it can be hard for even the most talented musicians to stand out, but Jared James Nichols has never had a problem being noticed. For the last decade, the 30-year-old Wisconsinite has been turning heads and pricking ears with his leonine locks, incendiary rock chops, unconventional technique and unique gear choices.
Key to what makes Nichols so unique as a rock-guitar player is the fact that he plays exclusively with his fingers, never with a pick, giving a distinctive percussive and kinetic attack. And then there’s his choice of gear – the guitarist’s Epiphone signature model has proved a crossover hit thanks to the stripped-back simplicity of its jet-black finish, wrapover bridge and single dog-ear P-90. “There’s something magical about that pickup,” he told us in 2015. “Yeah, it’s loud and it buzzes, but when it’s on, it’s on. They’re just so individual-sounding.”
Listen to: Jared James Nichols – Don’t Be Scared
Listening to Joey Landreth’s wonderfully expressive electric slide work, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was born with a bottleneck on his ring finger, but in fact the Bros. Landreth guitarist didn’t start playing slide until his early 20s – thinking that guitar legend Sonny (no relation) already had the ‘slide playing Landreth’ thing sewn up. Now, whenever Joey picks up a slide and cuts loose, there’s no doubt there’s room for more than one slide genius called Landreth in the world…
Listen to: The Bros. Landreth – Good Love
When then 22-year-old Tennessean Julien Baker released her second album, 2017’s Turn Out The Lights, it was the signal that a truly special talent had emerged. Blending brutally honest songwriting, ethereal harmonies and delicately beautiful guitar work into a potent brew that straddles the genres of indie-rock, folk and country, Baker’s music effortlessly demonstrates the enduring power of raw, honest guitar playing.
Listen to: Julien Baker – Appointments
Tame Impala was always intended to be Kevin Parker’s way of pushing himself out of his guitar comfort zone, intentionally using effects pedals and studio gear in unconventional ways to send him down interesting and progressive avenues. 12 years later, Parker’s desire to experiment and explore the psychedelic hinterland shows no signs of stopping.
Listen to: Tame Impala – Elephant
Not many people play South By Southwest when they’re 12 years old, but then when you start an all-girl punk duo with your eight-year-old drummer friend, you’re not the average aspiring rock star. And so it should be no surprise that Lydia Night, still just 19 and now frontwoman of The Regrettes, is still tearing up the punk-rock rulebook – smuggling angry, unapologetic socially conscious messages into infectiously catchy hook-laden two-guitar jams, ably aided by lead guitarist Genessa Gariano.
Listen to: The Regrettes – Seashore
Brazillian guitar-slinger Asato has attained guitar stardom in a way that would never have been possible even a few years ago. After all, this is a guy who’s got nearly a million followers on Instagram, 335,000 YouTube subscribers and a signature guitar from US boutique legend Suhr… and yet he’s never even released an album? Well, that’s what happens when the power of social media meets one of the most impressive virtuosos of his generation.
Upon moving to Los Angeles from his native Brazil to attend the Musician’s Institute in 2013, Asato started using Instagram to document what he was learning at the respected school. His unusual knack for melody and musicality in his one-minute instrumental pieces – not to mention his bluesy pop-tinged style – soon set Mateus apart from the Instagram guitar crowd, and in a few short years, he’d become a bona-fide guitar phenomenon.
Since then, Matteus has become a renowned clinician and in-demand guitarist for hire, touring with American Idol star Tori Kelly and UK singer-songwriter Jessie J, he’s also earned some high-profile fans, with no less than John Mayer describing him as “one of the best guitar players around”.
Listen to: Mateus Asato – Change
The self-styled practitioner of ‘jizz rock’ might have a reputation for his droll sense of humour and a penchant for having a good time both on and off the stage; but don’t let DeMarco’s eccentric personality detract from his abilities as a guitar player. The Canadian’s chorus-drenched clean guitar lines are inventive as they are hooky, smashing together yacht-rock and indie-rock to create a headily lo-fi brew.
Listen to: Mac DeMarco – Freaking Out The Neighborhood
Swedish avant-garde metal collective Zeal & Ardor fuse the seemingly disparate ingredients of post-rock, technical metal and African-American spirituals. In less capable hands that almost certainly wouldn’t work – but bandleader Manuel Gagneux is no ordinary guitar player. Somehow blending towering, reverb-drenched arpeggios, thundering metal riffs and traditional work songs, Gagneux is one of the most unique musicians working today.
Listen to: Zeal & Ardor – Come On Down
If you want to be a hot-shot guitarist, having a father who’s a respected bluesman in his own right isn’t going to do you any harm – just ask Marcus King. He was going out gigging with his dad, Marvin, before he was even a teenager, helping the young musician to hone his talents into one of the most exciting, soulful young blues guitarists out there. Still just 23 years old, Marcus looks like he’s ready to step up to the next level – a signature Gibson ES-345 model was launched in October and in January 2020, he’ll release his debut solo album, produced by none other than Dan Auerbach, and backed up by his all-star Easy Eye Sound band.
Listen to: The Marcus King Band – 8 A.M.
Not too many players have been fêted by everyone from John Mayer to Quincy Jones before their 21st birthday, and certainly not described as “the anointed one” by Mateus Asato, but Alabama-born neo-soul artist Melanie Faye is not your average Instagram guitarist. With a silky-smooth hybrid-picking style blended with some ferocious bluesy lead chops, Faye has already become an in-demand teacher and touring player, most recently hitting the road with Willow Smith.
Listen to: Melanie Faye – Eternally 12
Molly Tuttle is one of those guitar players that has to be seen to be believed. Hearing her remarkably dextrous and fluid picking is impressive in itself, of course, but it’s when you watch her play and see the way her right hand effortlessly and fluidly moves across the guitar – whether she’s flat-picking, cross-picking or playing clawhammer – that you come to understand why the 26-year-old Californian has become one of the most in-demand names in Nashville, and one of the hottest stars on the bluegrass scene.
Listen to: Molly Tuttle – When You’re Ready
First-generation Mexican-American guitarist and songwriter Omar Apollo (aka Omar Velasco) is an example of the broad and interesting church that guitar has become as we move into the 2020s. Apollo’s music effortlessly fuses blues, jazz, R&B and Latin elements to create a compelling laid-back pop brew. But at the heart of it all is guitar – listen to Ugotme and bask in the languid Strat chord stabs and bluesy meandering lead lines that provide a bedrock to his breakout Spotify hit.
Listen to: Omar Apollo – Ugotme
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A post shared by Phoebe Bridgers (@_fake_nudes_) on Oct 26, 2019 at 10:29am PDT
‘Making baritone guitar cool again’ might not have been an accolade that outrageously talented singer, songwriter and guitarist Phoebe Bridgers was actively seeking, but her use of a Danelectro ’56 on her remarkable 2017 debut album, Stranger In The Alps, was a pointed reminder that long-scale guitars can do more than just metal.
“I love – love – open-tuned baritone guitar. It’s perfect for how I write – it makes everything sound so sad! But it takes it out of the singer-songwriter world,” she told us last year. Her precocious gifts for writing and arranging no doubt play the biggest part, but there can be little doubt that her choice of instrument is a significant factor in why Bridgers’ music sounds so different from the singer-songwriter crowd and marks her out as one of the most exciting figures in guitar music.
Listen to: Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals
“When I saw Plini play, I felt that the future of exceptional guitar playing was secure.” When those words came from the mouth of none other than Steve Vai, it’s fair to say the instrumental guitar world took notice of Plini Roessler-Holgate. Since then, the 27-year-old Australian has just kept on demonstrating his remarkable technique and knack for melodic composition via his increasingly ambitious prog-rock opuses.
Listen to: Plini – Electric Sunrise
It’s a good job that when Phum Viphurit was a kid, his parents stopped him from playing the drums because it was disturbing the neighbours and got him a guitar instead. The nearly 50 million YouTube views of his funky, woozy-tremolo drenched hit Lover Boy can attest to that. With Strat in hand, the 24-year-old has become one of the leading lights in Asia’s neo-soul movement and is an artist with genuine global aspirations.
Listen to: Phum Viphurit – Lover Boy
The guitar-playing credentials of Larkin Poe’s Jazzmaster-toting frontwoman Rebecca Lovell sometimes get overshadowed by the kinetic lap-steel playing of her sister Megan. But don’t sleep on the younger Lovell’s chops – the scuzzy Southern-fried riffs she lays down provide a fabulous counterpoint to the searing slide, elevating the whole thing to another level.
Listen to: Larkin Poe – Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues
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I’m bringing this beauty back to North Shields ?? Hypersonic Missiles has gone GOLD!!! Thank you @od_management for walking in to the Lowlights 7 years ago and seeing something in me! It’s class having your best mate as your manager!! BUZZIN ❤️ UP THE FUCKING MAGS.
A post shared by Sam Fender (@sam_fender) on Dec 10, 2019 at 12:28pm PST
The North Shields lad is understandably fed up with being described as the ‘Geordie Springsteen’ by lazy journalists, but while Fender might share the Boss’s knack for storytelling, the 25-year-old is his own man. His debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, went straight to No.1 in the UK and its mix of intricately chiming 80s guitar lines and driving, euphoric choruses marks Sam Fender out for big things indeed.
Listen to: Sam Fender – The Borders
Lacy came to prominence as part of Grammy-nominated R&B act The Internet, but has since struck out on his own, working with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Vampire Weekend. The 21-year-old’s interest in guitar started in the most Millennial way possible – thanks to Guitar Hero – but he soon graduated to a real one. Fans of smooth, lo-fi jams and hip-hop beats should be extremely glad he did…
Listen to: Steve Lacy – Lay Me Down
The only thing certain about Aussie experimentalists King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is that you can never be sure what to expect from them. Surf, folk, psych, metal, jazz… it seems there’s no genre that guitarist and bandleader Stu Mackenzie won’t smash together in a wildly creative fashion, with his versatile chops holding the whole freewheeling edifice together.
Listen to: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Robot Stop
If there’s one critique that you could make about much of the guitar music that’s taking over airwaves in 2019, it’s that it’s a little clean. Enter Finnish math-rock duo NYOS, who wave the flag for noisy, angular, rule-breaking guitar like it’s some kind of weapon. Guitarist Tom Brooke shoulders the full melodic weight of NYOS with finger-bending arpeggios, loopers aplenty and seemingly endless scuzzily distorted guitar riffs.
Listen to: NYOS – Mutante
Tyler Bryant’s story sounds like something out of a movie. When still in elementary school, Bryant met Roosevelt Twitty – a sexagenarian blues musician from Paris, Texas, not far from Bryant’s home in Honey Grove. Twitty set about teaching young Tyler to play the blues and, by the time the boy was 13, they were playing shows together around Texas. Perhaps that’s why Bryant melds blues and hard-rock so authentically and tastefully – the 29-year-old has been immersed in it longer than veterans twice his age.
Listen to: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – On To The Next
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A post shared by Tom Misch ?? (@tommisch) on May 2, 2019 at 2:29pm PDT
A 24-year-old bedroom guitarist and SoundCloud producer whose debut album hit the Top 10 in the UK charts despite him not even having signed to a record label? Tom Misch’s route to stardom hasn’t been a conventional one and despite him being one of the most talked-about artists in his homeland, the Dulwich product doesn’t seem to be enamoured by fame, telling us earlier this year that, “I don’t want to be massive, I feel like I’m already pretty big, y’know?”
He might not have much of a choice in the matter if he keeps making records like Geography, an album that fuses pop, soul and R&B with his wonderfully smooth and expressive jazz-guitar style that owes a debt to the modern explosion of the internet guitar player: “I’m mostly influenced by YouTubers, actually,” he explains. “I love Erick Walls, he’s left-handed but plays right-handed guitar. He shreds, but in a soulful, bluesy, gospel style. I also like Isaiah Sharkey who plays for D’Angelo and Jairus Mozee. I love R&B guitarists who have come out of church with that gospel influence.”
Listen to: Tom Misch – South Of The River
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These whole last few weeks of @daddarioandco clinics have been such a pleasant and inspiring blur! I think it was just what I needed before heading to the studio to record today. Back in the UK, @mike_dawes and I finally took a break from playing Broken by Seether (feat Amy Lee) to talk a bit of gear and he let me try out his amazing custom guitar with his @tonewoodamp! It’s such a convenient way to add a bit of depth and lushness to your playing, unplugged without effects. The thing just attaches to the back of your guitar and resonates with the wood! I’m using a bit of reverb and delay here ?thank you so much Mike for letting me try this out!✌?#acoustic #tonewood #tonewoodamp #music
A post shared by Yvette Young (@yvetteyoung) on Dec 8, 2019 at 6:20am PST
Like many kids, Yvette Young found herself turned off from music by the pressures and demands associated with learning classical piano and violin – then when she was in her late teens, she discovered the guitar and post-rock music and her musical spark was truly ignited.
It’s perhaps understandable given her background that the guitar style she’s developed is a dizzying hybrid of violin and piano, her fingers moving effortlessly across the fretboard: her right hand a blur of taps and pull-offs, working in perfect harmony with her deftly moving left. With two albums of dizzying and melodic math-rock under her belt with Covet, Young is truly one of the brightest talents of the New Breed.
Listen to: Covet – Shibuya
Making a smooth, drama-free entrance as the newest member of a celebrated band is hard enough, let alone putting your own stamp on said band’s well-established sonic direction. Leave it to Gina Gleason to do both. The Philadelphia-born guitarist joined veteran hard rock outfit Baroness in 2017 after the departure of longtime axeman Pete Adams. A nimble player whose versatility stems partly from her experience shredding with the likes of Santana and Cirque du Soleil, Gleason’s talent and ear for tone is more than evident on Baroness’ 2019 record Gold & Grey.
Listen to: Baroness – Seasons
Melina Mae Duterte (Jay Som)
Rarely do musicians graduate as adroitly from their lo-fi beginnings as Jay Som has. Over the course of three full-length releases – two of them official albums, 2017’s Everybody Works and 2019’s Anak Ko – the Filipino-American musician born Melina Mae Duterte has become one of the most exciting artists working in indie rock today. Jay Som may be adept at crafting layered dream pop landscapes, chiming guitar leads and inviting hooks, but she never sacrifices that hushed intimacy that compels fans to take her and her music into their hearts.
Listen to: Jay Som – Baybee
(Sandy) Alex G
Who is (Sandy) Alex G? For many ’round the world, he’s one of the several musicians who helped mould R&B auteur Frank Ocean’s acclaimed 2017 albums, Endless and Blonde. But Alex Giannascoli is also the unassumingly rumpled Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist who built a cult following over years of low-key, lo-fi releases on Bandcamp. He signed to Domino in 2015, and over his three albums for the label, Giannascoli’s distinct voice as a songwriter – defined by a love of pitch-shifted vocals, unsettlingly memorable guitar lines and off-kilter arrangements – has flourished. It’ll be fascinating to see where he goes next.
Listen to: (Sandy) Alex G – Bobby
With four Grammys under her belt and an equal number of recording projects in rotation, Brittany Howard excels at turning busyness into brilliance. She’s led the Alabama Shakes to critical and commercial acclaim, formed the alt-country supergroup Bermuda Triangle with Becca Mancari and Jesse Lafser, and indulged her rock ’n’ roll wild child with her alter ego Thunderbitch. In 2019, she released the deeply personal solo album Jaime under her own name, hitting yet another peak in a career with several.
Listen to: Brittany Howard – Stay High
The heaving wellspring of talent that is London’s jazz scene has produced its fair share of virtuosos. The unobtrusive Mansur Brown might not be one of London town’s leading lights just yet, but that’s not for a lack of talent. The guitarist – who’s in his early 20s – was first introduced on London duo Yussef Kamaal’s 2016 landmark record Black Focus, and stepped into the spotlight properly in 2018, letting transcendental solos rip on his debut album Shiroi. Brown has since devoted his time to playing in his other group, TriForce, and collaborating with his friends (Yussef Dayes, Kamaal Williams, Joy Orbison and more). When he turns his attention back to his solo material, the world will be ready and waiting.
Listen to: Mansur Brown – Mashita
This young Welsh-Australian artist has razor-sharp wit and she’s not afraid to piss people off – both of which are hallmarks of a brilliant songwriter. Although her first EP, Thrush Metal, featured only five songs, it introduced us to her knack for vivid storytelling and brazenly political style – especially Boys Will Be Boys, which shone a stark spotlight on rape culture. Her debut album, Beware Of The Dogs, is more fleshed out, and while still politically tinged, gives us a broader picture of Stella Donelly as an artist, not just an activist.
Listen to: Stella Donnelly – Boys Will Be Boys
H.E.R. aka Gabriella Wilson
Gabriella Wilson, better known as H.E.R., has gone from an enigma to a Grammy Award winner over the span of three years. When she first slid into the spotlight with the EP H.E.R. Volume 1, her identity was a mystery although, ironically, H.E.R. stands for Having Everything Revealed. While the status of her anonymity has changed, her impressive chops and penchant for great licks remain. If there’s one guitarist to keep an eye on in the R&B genre, it’s H.E.R.
Listen to: H.E.R. – Best Part (Featuring Daniel Caesar)
What were you doing when you were a high school senior? At that age, Lindsey Jordan had already released an EP – which received critical praise – and was prepping her debut album with Snail Mail. She may only be 20, but when it comes to guitar, she could already be considered a veteran: Jordan picked up the instrument at five years old and practised for two hours daily thanks to what she calls an “obsessive personality trait”. We don’t know what exactly the future holds for this young Jazzmaster enthusiast, but we’re sure she’s on the cusp of greatness.
Listen to: Snail Mail – Heat Wave
Over the course of her career, Angel Olsen has dabbled in everything from acoustic folk to fuzzed-out indie rock to synth-laced pop ballads. But at the heart of it all is her guitar. The 32-year-old may not be the most flashy guitarist – although she does have gorgeous six-strings like a Gibson S-1 and a Silvertone 1381 but she uses the instrument to elevate her music. Take Lark from her latest album All Mirrors, for example. The song starts with a soft murmur backed by a chugging guitar but builds to an immense climax with Olsen’s wailing vocals and an epic wall of fuzz.
Listen to: Angel Olsen – Shut Up And Kiss Me
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A post shared by Kerry McCoy (@kerry_mccoy) on May 17, 2019 at 9:23am PDT
Kerry McCoy is an artist that’s always trying to push the boundaries of the guitar. Deafheaven, the band where he serves as lead guitarist and chief songwriter, blends multiple genres in their music – something they received plenty of flak from metal purists for. But McCoy remains undeterred. Put a Deafheaven record on you’ll hear the different influences that resonate with the band, from black metal to punk to post-rock to alternative rock.
Listen to: Kerry McCoy – Changes
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A post shared by 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster (@sunsetrollercoaster) on Dec 17, 2019 at 1:22am PST
Being able to make a name for themselves in the Asian independent music scene is no mean feat, though Sunset Rollercoaster singer and guitarist Tseng Kuo-Hung attributes this more to his band’s willingness to deviate from the norm and familiarity with more pop-leaning tunes. Indeed, Tseng’s melodic and groove-laden sensibilities stand in stark contrast to the shoegaze/noise rock stylings of most Taiwanese indie bands.
Listen to: Sunset Rollercoaster – My Jinji
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Played live at Worldwide FM yesterday on @emmalwarren1’s show for International Women’s day! In case you missed the set the link’s in my bio. Thanks to Worldwide FM and Emma for having me! ??✨ Photo by @martineito #guitar #solo #singing #internationalwomensday #newmusic #jonimitchell #mahaliajackson
A post shared by Shirley Tetteh (@tettehvibes) on Mar 9, 2018 at 9:37am PST
Shirley Tetteh doesn’t have your typical jazz guitarist’s background. After her initial experience with heavy metal, the 29-year-old’s foray into jazz spawned a voice that directed her to explore left-field pop, resulting in an eclectic fusion of the two. Be it with the seven-member collective Nérija or as solo artist Nardeydey, Tetteh’s improvisational approach to music have led to her being recognised as one of the most important jazz musicians in the UK.
Listen to: Nardeydey – Speedial
Social media is chock full of acoustic guitar players with decent enough chops, but what makes Sungha Jung stand out. Perhaps the fact that he received no formal training during his early years, instead relying on sight and playing by ear to develop his talent. To date, Sungha has performed with notable acts like Jason Mraz and Tommy Emmanuel, while his YouTube channel has garnered over six million followers.
Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart may hail from a background in classical music, but their music is no way stifled by convention. Within their band Ohmme, the Chicago duo occupy different ends of the sonic spectrum. Stewart’s tone and playing is sharp and incisive, while Cunningham’s possesses a droning and percussive quality that balances out her counterpart beautifully. For Ohmme, the thrill of forming something new is what drives them to keep creating and improvising.
Listen to: Ohmme – Icon
With track titles like Haley, Mary, Lorraine and Paul, it often feels like Adrianne Lenker’s songs are more akin to melodic letters addressed to close friends. This level of emotional intimacy is evident in Big Thief’s music and is one of the main reasons why the band have succeeded in building a strong community within its growing fanbase. Lenker’s playing forms the perfect accompaniment to her lyrics – dreamy, textural and evocative. Her ability to weave simple notes into a complex tapestry sets the emotional backdrop for songs like the dreamy Mythological Beauty and the visceral Not.
Listen to: Adrianne Lenker – symbol
There’s a revolution afoot in country music – and masked cowboy Orville Peck is helping lead the charge. The South African-born, Toronto-based musician released his debut album, Pony, on Sub Pop in March, though this isn’t his first rodeo: Peck prefers to keep his real name, appearance and origins as mysterious as possible, though his roots as a punk drummer are an open secret. As Orville Peck, this storyteller unspools heartfelt tunes and ballads, gorgeously wrought with steel guitar, banjo and more.
Looking to pick up guitar? Check out this buyer’s guide to beginner guitars.