I wanna shred you up!
October 27, 2009 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of modern indie rock artists that aren't afraid to shred & solo - on the electric guitar, not a Casiotone.

I'm a major music fan with tastes all over the board. For the past couple years I've been super heavy in the indie world. Much of what I've been listening to is quite, shall we say, "eclectic", and very experimental. I've noticed that prominent use of the guitar seems to be languishing in such music. It's present, yes, but subdued, scrubbed through a sea of effects, and diluted either into a wash of supplemental melody or a wall of noise. The Moog solo has replaced the guitar solo - and though that isn't a bad thing per se, I want to get back to my roots, so to speak.

I feel like I'm ready to go through an electric guitar rennaissance. I miss the riffs, energy, and lead of yore. Few 90's alt songs were lacking a decent solo, and I really miss that.

So, what can you recommend? I'm NOT looking for "classic" examples of solo-centric bands (classic rock, 90s alt, metal, etc). I've got plenty to choose from there (though, for examples' sake, Pink Floyd fits the bill nicely - really experimental music that employed guitar solos masterfully, yet weren't a silly shredder hair band either).

I'm looking for recent/up & coming bands that aren't afraid to turn the amps to 11 and bust out some righteous solos, or, at the minimum, that use the guitar in a technically impressive fashion, instead of just a yawn-inducing strum box.

Note: I'm not just looking for loud, power-chord-weilding indie bands (Glasvegas, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, etc). I love this stuff too, but I want to hear some riffs, man!


The White Stripes (their older, more guitar-centric stuff - Ball & Biscuit, etc)
Apollo Up! (This is pretty much exactly what I'm talking about)
Some B.R.M.C.
Alberta Cross, a little
Eh... can't think of any others at the moment?

Don't feel that it has to be restrained to a certain genre, per se, but I'm not looking for pure metal (Uneath, Skeletonwitch, etc). Like I said, lots of easy choices there. I'm looking for more eclectic, indie-oriented groups that incorporate heavy guitar lead into their music.

posted by sprocket87 to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try Marnie Stern.
posted by whiskeyspider at 7:16 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stephen Malkmus's solo albums.
posted by hal incandenza at 7:19 AM on October 27, 2009

posted by The Straightener at 7:22 AM on October 27, 2009

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2009

Built to Spill has been my to the tick tock yeah don't stop yeah jam bad for this past decade. Doug Martsch is a guitar god.
They have a new album out this month, but I'm forever wedded to "Perfect from now on".
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady, particularly on the last two albums (Boys and Girls in America and Stay Positive).
posted by substars at 7:42 AM on October 27, 2009

Wilco's "Live in Chicago" album features the fabulous Nels Cline, who does a number of skronkin' solos.

Spoon tends to do some interesting angular guitar stuff.

On the heavier end, Mastodon's 'Blood Mountain' is highly recommended.
posted by mattholomew at 7:45 AM on October 27, 2009

My Morning Jacket
posted by Jeeb at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: I think they're broken up now but Jump, Little Children, particularly My Guitar
posted by ghharr at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Seconding hal incandenza, you've gotta hear Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, his latest band. You need this album. And this one. No lame cut-'n-paste power chords, just Indie smarts chock full of spiraling, hard guitar rock satisfaction.
posted by applemeat at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009

St. Vincent, at least in their live shows.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B
posted by vers at 7:48 AM on October 27, 2009

Death From Above 1979 is considered an indie band, I think.
posted by electroboy at 7:48 AM on October 27, 2009

Definitely The Hold Steady.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:57 AM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. Wilco, Built to Spill, MMJ and the Hold Steady are already regulars in my rotation. These bands do have some decent guitar chops but not exactly what I'm looking for. Dr. Dog too, for that matter. All of these suggestions are valid, but not quite as "heavy" as I'd prefer. Built to Spill and the Hold Steady would be closest, from this group.

A good sample would be Apollo Up: Hard edged and technical. Their songs just rock, yet aren't the standard nu-metal drivel, nor are they indie-pop drivel. Seriously, listen to "Walking the Plank" or "No Song" - the chorus guitar hooks and solos are maddengly awesome.

I have one or two Malkmus/Jicks albums, but I've admittedly not given them the attention they deserve.

I have St. Vincent's EP, but not the LP. I know she has guitar chops though - I've seen her on YouTube doing "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and I loved it! (I missed her at All Points West this summer, unfortunately, in favor of the Black Keys - who also fit this theme nicely).

On that note, Steel Train, a Drive-Thru records band that was exceptionally non-emo/pop-punk, has absolutely terrific guitar work. Their cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is absolutely drool-inducing.

The others, I will check out! Thanks again, keep 'em comin! :)

As a side note: This question has been swimming around in my head for some time, but it was finally pushed to the fore after I saw "It Might Get Loud" this weekend. For those who don't know, it's a documentary about the electric guitar and those who use it. They put Jack White, the Edge and Jimmy Page together in a big room and had them talk, play, reminisce, etc... A very interesting film in itself, and it really rekindled my fascination with the guitar.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:02 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Des Ark
posted by kaseijin at 8:08 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Probably not be what you're after, but it's indie (in the true sense of independent) and technically thrilling:

Mick Barr and Zach Hill
More Hella
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 8:10 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and Wilco was definitely a good suggestion, I wasn't snuffing it at all. The guitar work on Sky Blue Sky is beautiful - "Either Way" almost makes me tear up, actually ;)
Just not quite as "rock" as I'm looking for.

Battles may be another example: Though not really solo-oriented, they do some pretty intense/creative guitar stuff that I could curl up in and die... The drums are especially magnificent, though.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:11 AM on October 27, 2009

The Drive-by Truckers
posted by dortmunder at 8:12 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Also see
Young Widows
The Kills
The Horrors
posted by kaseijin at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2009

Riverboat Gamblers
posted by kaseijin at 8:18 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Dinosaur Jr. is still pumpin' out new jams.
posted by saladin at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Oh hell. Forgot about Screaming Females ... That girl can seriously fucking shred.
posted by kaseijin at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2009

Psychic Paramount
I'll also second Hella and add Lightning Bolt
Zach Hill also drums on those magnificent Marnie Stern LPs
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:51 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Certainly Ted Leo and the Thermals are in your library already?
posted by yeti at 8:54 AM on October 27, 2009

The Wrens
posted by rhizome at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Does Oneida count? They have shredding guitar AND rocking organ riffs.

disclaimer: I'm totally biased.
posted by dersins at 9:23 AM on October 27, 2009

If I may be so bold, my band probably fits into the more rocking-out end of the indie-rock spectrum (and our forthcoming album- not online yet- shreds like all getout). It sounds like Bond and The Dirtiest Dudes in Rock n Roll would be up your alley.
posted by COBRA! at 9:24 AM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks you guys! Some feedback:

Marnie Stern - Rocks, not quite as refined as I'd hoped, musically speaking, but definitely has the shred edge I like
- Too metal... It's cool, just not what I'm looking for (too much guttural screaming, wild breakdowns, etc). Cool band, just not the style I'm looking for.
Jump, Little Children - Awesome! The build-up in the live-vid took long enough, but I like what I heard. Interestingly, these guys (or at least this song) sound just like Ozma, another band I forgot to mention as being satisfactorily shreddy. Bonus points for JLC because their catalog is on Zune Pass!
Death From Above 1979 - Very cool band, though not exactly what I was looking for. I mean, they technically don't even play guitar, so.... ;)
Des Ark - Sounds great! Definitely will be checking them out further (also on Zune Pass). Reminds me of Forget Cassettes (labelmates of Apollo Up), who are flippin' fantastic. Thanks!
Orthrelm/Mick Barr and Zach Hill/Octis/Ocrilim/Crom-Tech/Hella - LOL. Thanks, but no :) (I have Church Gone Wild and just can't wrap my head around it)
Young Widows - Awesome!! A little harder than I was looking for but man, they do rock. Really like that video too! Reminds me of Minus the Bear, except 10x heavier.
Monotonix - Ha, these guys are hilarious. I've known about them but never really listened much. Not really as technical as I'd like, but probably worth picking up anyway.
The Kills - I've loved them for a long time :)
The Horrors - I have "Strange House" - it's pretty cool, a little too frenetic for me.
Riverboat Gamblers - Too poppy, at least from that sample. The solo was sorta weaksauce too ;)
Dinosaur Jr. - But of course! Forgot to mention them at the outset, but yes, they're perfect.
Screaming Females - YES! Haha, nice.
Psychic Paramount/Lightning Bolt/Earthless - Um, no thanks. Earthless was okay, just not really my style.
Ted Leo/The Thermals - Definitely treasured members of my collection, yes - thanks :)
The Wrens - Really? Never got that vibe from them. Hafta go back and relisten.
Oneida - Sweet! I really enjoyed the samples.
Derailleur - Ehh, it was pretty cool, but not quite what I'm after.

Add to this list Polvo, didn't think of them. Also, going back a bit, Kara's Flowers! Anyone else remember them??

Any more? It seems like a lot of the responses were favored toward the really experimental/psych/metal end of the spectrum. That's not really at all what I'm going for... Just good alt-indie rock'n'roll with some kickin' lead work throughout.

I do appreciate all the replies though, you've given me a lot to check out!
posted by sprocket87 at 10:24 AM on October 27, 2009

I'm going to put another vote in for Dinosaur Jr. In my opinion, J. Mascis is one of the THE GREATEST modern day guitar players.
posted by AsRuinsAreToRome at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2009

Sunset Rubdown. especially their newer albums, which are like psychedelic labyrinths of sound.
posted by spindle at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Ha, I love Sunset Rubdown but would never consider them a guitar-lead-centric rock band ...
posted by sprocket87 at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2009

Don Caballero


Hot Snakes

Sleater-Kinney (especially their last album The Woods)

They're older, and may not have enough edge for you, but Faraquet might be worth a listen as well.
posted by camneely at 11:22 AM on October 27, 2009

Seconding Boris:
1 2 3 4

Kurt Vile (next big thing):
1 2
posted by azarbayejani at 12:17 PM on October 27, 2009

First things that came to mind were Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill...maybe Secret Machines and...I get an adrenaline rush just thinking about this band...Turing Machine, Either the first album A New Machine for LIving or their second: Zwei are guitar riff rockin' bonanza's. I put these two albums on back to back and by the end of it, nothing else will really do. Also, their live show's are incredible.
posted by Skygazer at 12:33 PM on October 27, 2009

Add to this list Polvo

So then "Slanted and Enchanted" -era Pavement counts?
posted by dersins at 1:04 PM on October 27, 2009

Death From Above 1979 - Very cool band, though not exactly what I was looking for. I mean, they technically don't even play guitar, so.... ;)

The bass is totally a kind of guitar!
posted by electroboy at 1:28 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: @ camneely: Don Cab, Boris, and Sleater-Kinney are all in my library already. Hot Snakes is new though, thanks!

@ azarbayejani: Kurt Vile is new to me, I'll check him out.

@ dersins: Maybe. For some reason I never caught the Pavement obsession, but I've been meaning to buckle down and try it again.

@ electroboy: I knew someone would call me out on that. Yes, the bass is a kind of guitar, but in no way does it fulfill what I was asking for ;)
posted by sprocket87 at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Trans Am
The Fucking Champs
posted by orville sash at 2:51 PM on October 27, 2009

Seconding The Fucking Champs
posted by speicus at 3:40 PM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Now that I'm home, I'd like to add:

Party of Helicopters
- specifically their album Abracadaver (their later stuff I find to be a little less raw and fun)
Drive Like Jehu - especially Yank Crime (this review's description of the guitars as "barely contained... histrionics" is pretty apt).
Refused - I know you said you were looking for more indie (and presumably less screamy), but seriously, this song (and the album it's on) is awesome.
This unbelievable Kinski song.

Maybe some Sloan?
posted by saladin at 4:22 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: @ saladin - wow, good call on all those bands! Well, I wasn't crazy about Refused, but, otherwise, yeah! Mogwai is a staple of mine already, but everything else is pretty new. Party of Helicopters sounds awesome - like John Vanderslice with a punk band!

Another band I thought of this morning: The Afghan Whigs. Really, really great guitar work, and such a strong band overall.

I think one problem with this question and many of the responses are that few modern groups (especially in the indie realm) employ the "classic" kind of guitar solos. Most of the bands posted do a lot of technical stuff, even "soloing", but it's mostly just noodling around and going a bit berserk on the high frets. Even the legendary J. Mascis isn't exactly "structured" during his solos.

I think that's what I'm looking for... something more structured, deliberate, carefully constructed. Think of classic 60s/70s solos by guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, etc... these were powerfully emotive, yet carefully designed, even lyrical. I mean, listen to Hendrix's solo in "All Along the Watchtower" and tell me what band today comes close to something like that. It's not just noodling around, doing bends and junk for 30 seconds - it's a work of art. I just don't get that same impression, even from the more prominent indie "guitar" bands (Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr, etc).

Sigh... Maybe it's just a sign of the times, and of musical "progression".
posted by sprocket87 at 6:58 AM on October 28, 2009

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