It’s been a fairly spectacular year for new guitarists and guitar bands. There’s been a boom in post-punk types finally tearing up a much-worn template across across Britain and Ireland; exciting heavy acts blending hardcore and metal in raw yet surprisingly melodic forms; plus a rich and vivid variety of blues, rock ’n’ roll and indie offerings. The players that made our top 10 represent a cross-section of the talent that broke through in 2019.
1. Jack McEwan (Psychedelic Porn Crumpets)
The lynchpin guitarist of Australia’s most vibrant psych exports takes the top spot in our 2019 poll. New album And Now For The Whatchamacallit, released in May, was an explosion of colour and pulsating heavy-fuzz rhythms and they toured all over this year: hitting up the UK, US, Europe and Australia. A breakthrough year, indeed.
2. Chris Turpin (Ida Mae)
Chris Turpin has prior experience with indie-blues types Kill It Kid but his new project with wife Stephanie Jean (also of KIK) has seen him undergo a roots-y reinvention. Their debut Chasing Lights is full of irresistible harmonies, rusted distortions and roughed up resonators.
3. Jack Edwards, Luke Allat (Piston)
Midlands rockers Piston channel some of the beef of their Black Country forebears, but throw big-bodied Gretsch tones into the mix, along with a hint of the Sunset Strip. This year saw them get the nod from none other than The Cult’s Billy Duffy and release their self-titled debut.
4. Aled Clifford (Henry's Funeral Shoe)
Aled Clifford represents approximately 50% of Welsh duo Henry’s Funeral Shoe. They released their “rock ’n’ roll album for a strange world and time”, Smartphone Rabbit Hole, this year and it’s full of grinding, gravelly fuzz riffs and howling modern blues.
5. Danny Beardsley
The Parallax Method man does a fine line in prog madness, but restricted his palette for a new country-rock-inspired solo effort, Blood From A Stone, this year. It’s more restrained but nonetheless effective – and not short on some fine lead work.
6. Sam Fender
The ultimate example of nominative determinism. North East songwriter Sam Fender has channeled his Tyneside tales into miniature slices of Springsteen-esque six-string storytelling. Fender’s got a guitar and he’s learned how to make it talk.
7. Jørn Kaarstad (Bokassa)
Norwegian guitarist Jørn Kaarstad has had a great year. At some point his group’s enthrallingly riff-y blend of punk punch and lurching metal power caught the ear of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, resulting in a string of huge support slots, plus they released second record Crimson Riders.
8. Jamie Glass and James Simpson (Indoor Pets)
Indoor Pets’ debut Be Content was a mile-a-minute, jittering power-pop blast. Packed to the gills with big tones, Hives-y garage rock riffs and earworms. It shook violently one minute and seemed to float off in harmony the next.
9. Dennis Estensen and Tarjei Kristoffersen (Oberst)
We loved Norway punks Oberst’s searing, yet melancholic blend of hardcore songs forms and metallic lead work, as demonstrated on their debut EP. They’ve got a full-length out early next year, so that’s one reason to look forward to 2020…
10. Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (Black Midi)
If you’re looking for the sound of a guitar band reinvented in 2019, there have been several strong contenders, but Rough Trade signees Black Midi might take that particular crown. They have deconstructed the rock song and built it into a series of chaotic, veering new stacks of sound.