10 essential indie rock guitar solos

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There has long been a lingering myth that indie rock (the fruit of punk rock) was a place where mastery of the instrument was not required. And that might be technically true, but indie rock and shredding aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, a mere cursory reading of some of the greatest indie rock bands of the past 30 years would suggest that a badass guitar playing can go a long way in distinguishing a band. More recently, bands like Diarrhea Planet have shown how far you can go with a band full of virtuosos, but they are just the descendants of a long line of indie rock guitar heroes. Take a journey through pentatonic scales and bursts of commentary with us as we share a list of essential indie rock guitar solos.


Mud honey – “You got it”
of Superfuzz Bigmuff/Mud honey (1988/1989; sub-pop)

Guitarist: Steve Turner

A song so enjoyable that they had to record it twice, Mudhoney’s “You Got It” (subtitled “Keep it Outta My Face” on its first release) is the quintessential grunge song. It’s dirty, it’s rude, it’s messy. And it contains two of the most indispensable guitar licks in indie rock history. The intro itself is repetitive, but carries the beat to the start of the song. But it was Steve Turner’s solos between verses that sold a lot of Superfuzz and Bigmuff pedals, with its raw but pure overdrive. The background chords are generic enough that a less sober musician would have gone too far, but Turner kept things simple and sparse while not sounding either. – CG


Dinosaur Jr. essential indie rock guitar solosDinosaur Jr. – “Feel the pain”
of Without a sound (1994; Resumption)

Guitarist: J. Mascis

With a string player like J. Mascis at the helm, who seems to give off more energy from a standstill than your everyday plasma ball, I bet someone could argue that every Dinosaur Jr. song has it. the best indie rock solo. Instead of spending time pursuing this theory, let’s focus on one of the group’s biggest flaws on the mainstream radar. Threatening to become solos on their own, Mascis’ layered guitar parts across the mantras and central choruses of this song make it far happier than the lyrics suggest. Around 3:25 am, the final overdubs propel “Feel the Pain” to its cold stop, a quick series of brilliant riffs and tracks leaving Mascis’ vocal chirps behind like aerial fireworks. – A B


Jawbox for your special sweetheartJawbox – “Salty”
of For your own special darling (1994; Atlantic)

Guitarist: J. Robbins

When I think of bands known for their solos, Jawbox is not necessarily the first that comes to mind. Not that they never added any solos, but they rarely involved conventional scales and often took up limited space in the song. “Savory” is a prime example of J. Robbins’ solo art: a scratching, abrasive click from an instrumental projector. It’s loud, but melodic, spacious but punchy. In addition, it is essentially a repetition of a few key riffs, whose presence – unloaded by the vocals – has quite astonishing emotional power. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it is: capturing a feeling. – JT


Built to Spill essential indie rock guitar solosBuilt to overthrow – “Velvet waltz”
of Perfect from now on (1997; Warner Bros.)

Guitarist: Doug Martsch

Indie rock guitar gods are not uncommon, but most of them follow a particular ideal. Usually it’s J Mascis. Sometimes it’s Thurston Moore. But more often than not, that idolatry is that of Built to Spill’s one and only Doug Martsch. Given his performances on albums like Perfect from now on, it’s easy to see why. One of the album’s glory days, “Velvet Waltz,” culminates with a solo that showcases not only his talent for melody and beauty, but a rare intensity that seems to rock the song. About two-thirds of the way down the song it turns into something sprawling and majestic, Martsch’s guitar performance looks less like a humble independent guitarist and something more like Mick Ronson in “Moonage Daydream” or Eddie Hazel in “Maggot Brain”. It is truly breathtaking. – JT


Yo La Tengo essential indie rock guitar solosYo La Tengo – “A square of sugar”
of I can hear the heart beating like one (1997; Matador)

Guitarist: Ira Kaplan

“Sugarcube,” a standout single from what is perhaps Yo La Tengo’s best album ever (although there is room for reasoned debate), is essentially half-solo. There’s a short melodic solo with a good dose of skronk after the first verse, and a much louder and chaotic second solo, which acts as a sort of counterpoint to the catchy and melodious song below. And damn, is this song catchy. (Plus, there are layered frills that end the track under the final chorus.) But that’s only part of Yo La Tengo’s appeal: you get the blurry pop melodies, but they’re more likely. than likely to be packaged with a Crazy Ira Kaplan brand. That’s why we love them. – JT


best indie rock albums of the 00s Elliott SmithElliott Smith – “Son of Sam”
of Figure 8 (2000; Dreamworks)

Guitarist: Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith’s legacy has largely been about his songwriting abilities, and there’s no doubt his songs are always creepy. But he was also a serious tough guy when it came to his strengths as a musician. He could play any instrument you put in front of him, and that certainly includes the guitar. On “Son of Sam”, one of the rare singles in his catalog in which Smith gives free rein to his rock’n’roll side, he remains concise, but he makes it count. The solo of “Son of Sam” is short and works all the better thanks to the accompaniment of the honky-tonk piano (and if I’m being honest, it starts a bit on the bridge when the Smith chords go up to the neck) , but it’s 10 perfect seconds of fuzzbox shine. – JT


Broken Social Scene essential indie rock guitar solosBroken social scene – “Cause = Time”
of You forgot it in people (2002; Arts and Crafts / Paper bag)

Guitarist: Andrew Whiteman

“Cause = Time”, one of the singles that came out of the breakout of Broken Social Scene You forgot it in people, is deceptively calm from the start. It’s a dreamy indie pop jam that turns into a comfortable groove in its first verse, but it hints at something more dramatic when Kevin Drew delivers his chorus. After a few verses, however, guitarist Andrew Whiteman has time to shine, delivering a jaw-dropping, if not elegant, solo that brings more than a little fire to the gradually escalating layered track. And then around 3:45 am, it starts again, but longer, stronger and with even more intensity. Badass. – JT


Sleater-Kinney the WoodsSleater-Kinney – “What is mine is yours”
of Woods (2005; sub-pop)

Guitarist: Carrie Brownstein

Sleater-Kinney’s Woods This was the moment when the Portland trio fully embraced their heroism on the guitar, to a pretty dramatic degree. It featured their first song that stretched beyond 10 minutes, not to mention lots of badass riffs. But “What’s Mine Is Yours” stands out because it descends into a solo that is a real solo in every way. Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker briefly drop out to allow Carrie Brownstein to step into the spotlight and make some fair noise. Of all the solos featured here, this is one of the most abrasive, it’s shrill tones and layers of fuzz like Sonic Youth via Tony Iommi, and it’s one of the coolest moments of all. their catalog. – JT


St. Vincent essential indie rock guitar solosSt. Vincent – “Surgeon”
of strange mercy (2011; 4AD)

Guitarist: Annie Clark

A disappointment about Saint-Vincent otherwise strong MASSEDUCTION from last year was his apparent absence of wild and heroic guitar moments. When you listen to Annie Clark, you expect to hear outrageous guitar playing, and much of 2011’s Strange Mercy is occupied by some of her greats – you can practically imagine smoke billowing up her neck. “Surgeon” is initially one of the more understated tracks on the album, but the nimble fretwork is evident in the chorus, performed not only quickly but with an elegance even harder to achieve. But in his outro, Clark tunes in to trippy synth effects and transforms into Prince, culminating with a high note that soars into oblivion. And while her affinity for weird effects makes her sound more than guitar, her live performances make it clear that she’s the one bending the strings. – JT


Titus Andronicus The most lamentable tragedyTitus Andronicus – “Fatal error”
of The most lamentable tragedy (2015; Merge)

Guitarists: Adam Reich, Jonah Maurer

There have been many members of Titus Andronicus over the years, with frontman Patrick Stickles being the one constant since the group formed in New Jersey in 2005. But another constant is the constant flow of destroyers who have been part of the group. from the beginning. “Fatal Flaw” features two of those six-string badass at work in its brief but impressive harmonized solo after the first verse of the rock anthem. It’s also Thin Lizzy that the group has ever sounded, which says a lot, since they already had more than a little “Jailbreak” in their blood from the start. – JT


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