The best guitar tracks of the 2010s
Some serious shredding from Courtney Barnett, the Arctic Monkeys, Ex Hex, and more.
To celebrate the end of the 2010s, Entertainment Weekly is looking back at the best pop culture of the decade that changed movies, TV, music, and more. Today, we count down the best guitar tracks of the last 10 years.
10. “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” – Mac DeMarco
If DeMarco was a car, he’d be a 1978 Dodge Ram cruising into the sunset with weed smoke leaking out the windows. But there’s real artistry in his jammy ramblers — and insidious hooks, too. In “Neighborhood,” he speaks laconically to the anxious mom of every guy who ever grew his hair long and picked up a guitar: “Never been better, got no job on the line/ Sincerely, don’t worry/ Same old boy that you hoped you would find.” — Leah Greenblatt
9. “Yuk Foo” – Wolf Alice
For anyone who has been in the front of a Wolf Alice gig, they bore witness to a creeping confidence. Over time, the four bandmates became increasingly tighter as friends and players. But nobody was ready for this cleverly titled raising of the middle finger. “You bore me!” screams Ellie Rowsell. “You bore me to death.” It’s as hardcore as it comes, and delivered with irrefutable commitment and conviction by the songwriter and her raging brothers in arms. —Eve Barlow
8. “Shark Smile” – Big Thief
There were few greater joys than following Adrianne Lenker’s hands around a guitar lick and her voice around a lyric towards the latter half of the decade. In “Shark Smile,” Lenker, inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s driving songs, turned up her guitar with a meatier, more traveling jaunt as she sang about a treacherous car journey where one lover dies and the other lives. And what’s more: somehow it sounds like a celebration. —EB
7. “R U Mine” – Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner and co. went as American as four lads from Sheffield could on the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album AM, with a monster riff from Nick O’Malley to match the frenzy of Turner’s unravelling around the object of his affection. Global domination was on the cards for Monkeys in the mid 2010s, as they reached peak levels of classic rock. “R U Mine” was all T Rex swagger, ’60s girl-group harmonizing, and Black Sabbath guitardom. “R u mine tomorrow, or just mine tonight?” wondered Turner, sounding as satisfied with either outcome. —EB
6. “Rainbow Shiner” – Ex Hex
D.C. power trio Ex Hex’s dual-guitar assault of Mary Timony and Betsy Wright made them one of the decade’s tightest rock outfits, but this song from their second album It’s Real is a condensed prog-rock epic, with Wright soloing as if her life depends on it. Forceful yet fluid, Wright’s solo will no doubt be picked over by aspiring axe-slingers for decades to come — the rest of us can bang our heads and sing along with its candy-coated chorus. —Maura Johnston
5. “Weatherman” – Dead Sara
Los Angeles blues-metallurgists Dead Sara broke through in 2012 with the wailing “Weatherman,” a churning rocker that owed its appeal to Siouxsie Medley’s guitar heroics as much as it did to yelper Emily Armstrong’s curdled wail. Medley’s riffing and Armstrong’s belting seemingly egg each other on throughout, engaging in a harder-edged, more fiery version of the lead-lead synergistics that define rock’s greatest acts. —MJ
4. ”Feel” – Ty Segall
In a decade that saw the guitar retreat further from the zeitgeist, Ty Segall was somewhat of a torchbearer for the aged art of shredding. The California rocker unloaded an incalculable number of riffs and licks across his many pseudonyms and side-projects, but the song “Feel” from his standout 2014 opus, Manipulator, contains his most gratifying fretwork. The track immediately sinks into a body-bending groove that’s just begging to be sliced and diced, and Segall allots himself two whole sections to solo mercilessly yet melodically. —Eli Enis
3. “Birth In Reverse” – St. Vincent
St. Vincent can make her guitar sound like a buzzsaw, a synthesizer, or even a rubber band. She manages t all three in this roaring single off her 2014 self-titled LP. In between verses on daily mundanities — taking out the garbage, masturbating — and a chorus that tackles “phenomenal lies” and “the cosmic eternity,” are grungy riffs and mini-solos where Annie Clark shows why she’s one of the most creative guitarists in the world, working up and down the fret like an impressionist painter. —Alex Suskind.
2. “Husbands” – Savages
A sort of spiky feminist companion to Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” the London foursome’s portrait of domestic claustrophobia and paranoia — “God, I wanna get rid of it/ my house, my bed, my husbands” — shivers with primal-scream urgency and one fantastic galloping guitar line. — LG
1. “Avant Gardener” – Courtney Barnett
How wonderful that an ode about panic attacks by a consistently brilliant songwriter from Australia made its way to so many ears. Barnett was no overnight sensation, and was already an established figment of her local scene in Melbourne, running a record label (Milk!) and playing with her peers, while also writing spectacular stories about the smallest, most ordinary things. “Avant Gardener” perhaps stood out not just for its lyrics but its addictive, swirling guitar lines that mirror her own mental acrobatics. “I’m not that good at breathing in,” she wheezes, as the riffs screech about trying to catch someone’s attention. Gladly they caught the world’s. —EB