The Best Guitar Songs of the Past 10 Years
(Chosen by Positive Grid Employees)
By Brian Caples
If you can believe it, this month marks 10 years since the inception of Positive Grid! We’ve spent the past decade evolving alongside the ever-changing guitar scene, and truly appreciate all of your support throughout the years.
Sometimes when planning for the future, it doesn’t hurt to look to the past for inspiration. In the list below, we tasked 10 members of the Positive Grid Marketing team with choosing their favorite guitar song of the past 10 years. Their picks range from folk and blues to metal and emo, plus everything in between. We firmly believe that our employees’ unique musical backgrounds help make Positive Grid stand out from the rest, and this list is proof of that.
All of these picks will also be included in a Spotify playlist, linked below. Make sure to follow us there for more future playlists!
The Best Guitar Songs of the Past 10 Years
Hammer No More The Fingers
“Atlas of an Eye”
Chosen by: Tom Gilbert, Marketing Communications Director
Funny things happen when your band tours with other bands. You bond over playing empty venues (and if you’re lucky, you occasionally get to enjoy the opposite). You see people at their absolute best, and also their worst (or drunkest). You become close friends. You also hear their music. A lot.
If you’re lucky, you actually like the band’s music that you’re hearing night after night. In my case, it was the early 2010s, the band was Hammer No More the Fingers, and their music I loved.
Joe Hall’s guitar playing on “Atlas of an Eye” from the North Carolina trio’s 2011 album Black Shark is complex, almost jazzy, weaving around Jeff Stickley’s drums and Duncan Webster’s bass and vocals. But most importantly, it’s got melody. And that’s what keeps me coming back. It’s not complicated for the sake of being complicated, it’s just how this man writes riffs. (Plus, it’s two minutes and nineteen seconds. The song’s over before you’ve had time to figure out what just happened.)
And it doesn’t matter how many times I hear it – when that bridge kicks in, the stereo gets cranked all the way up and I’m air guitar-ing like there’s no tomorrow, while my wife and daughter look on in horror.
“I Gotsta Get Paid”
Chosen by: Eric Sands, Artist Relations Manager
When I first heard “I Gotsta Get Paid," released on ZZ Top's 2012 album La Futura, I thought, “that’s the gnarliest guitar tone I’ve ever heard!” Of course, only Billy Gibbons would be mad enough to use it (and pull it off so well!). In this tune, the Reverend Billy G shows us how to push tonal boundaries, introduce a vibe and set the mood with a tone as wicked as the inner city street trade this song is about.
“I Gotsta Get Paid” is a remake of the 1989 Hip Hop hit, "25 Lighters" by DJ DMD [feat. Lil' Keke & Fat Pat]. ZZ Top mixes gritty subject matter with Texas Boogie and Blues to create one of the most infectious songs of their career.
Sadly, we lost ZZ Top bassist and overall phenomenal musician Dusty Hill earlier this year. From myself and all of us at Positive Grid, we want to give a big thank you and Godspeed to Dusty for the decades of great music and inspiration.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
“One Of Us Is The Killer”
Chosen by: Chris LeMasters, Artist Relations Manager
The Dillinger Escape Plan has been - and always will be - one of the most influential, genre-bending bands to come out of the metallic hardcore scene. Founded in 1997 in Morris Plains, New Jersey, DEP came swingin’ with their debut LP Calculating Infinity - a record still regarded by many as one of the most prolific, groundbreaking records ever released by a band in this space.
Fast forward to 2013, and The Dillinger Escape Plan was still goin’ strong. With numerous successful full lengths under their belts, they dropped their fifth studio album “One Of Us Is The Killer," a further exploration into complex and diverse songwriting - rhythmically erratic, and texturally juxtaposed. The title track has always stood out to me as a beautiful example of how an artist can, for lack of a better word, “stray” from their roots while still staying true to their sound. Guitarist Ben Weinman leads with unique and almost orchestral chord voicings as the song tiptoes between ethereal verses and a violent, abrupt chorus. Meanwhile, Greg Puciato (vocals) shines in this tune, showcasing his diverse, evolving vocal palette.
All in all, I think this song is a great example of how to truly think outside the box. Metal doesn’t need to be power chords, or blast beats. By exploring unorthodox textures, phrasings, and patterns, bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan have paved the way for new artists to go above and beyond and create exciting new arrangements, pushing the genre further than ever before.
Plus, I mean... it’s just heavy. Turn it up!
Death From Above 1979
Chosen by: Zac Penrod, Marketing Project Manager
I can be quite nostalgic for music, maybe more so than others. I have my list of bands that no dollar amount would prevent me from seeing if they did a reunion. One of those bands that was quite high for me once upon a time was Death From Above 1979. When “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine,” dropped in 2004, their sound burrowed deep within my brain and completely altered music for me. I was done with chaotic hardcore bands like Blood Brothers, and instead was led down a path to artists like Bloc Party and TV on the Radio. But just as quickly as DFA1979 stormed the scene, they vanished and left a vacancy within me that could not be replaced.
Fast forward to their blistering return (complete with a literal riot-inducing 2011 SXSW set), and it was clear the world was ready for their reunion. It took 3 more years, but their album Physical World dropped and quickly became the comeback album I was hoping for. It was “Crystal Ball” in particular that created that jaw dropping moment that I had been waiting for all these years. Jesse Keeler's bass line immediately crashes in and sets the chaotic tone fueled by their iconic fuzz and noise. Add in Sebastian Grainger’s panicked lyrics and the song became an instant favorite for me.
Kacey & Clayton
“The Rio Grande”
Chosen by: Ben Lee, Senior Product Communications Manager
Clayton’s fantastic 12-string guitar work on the track “The Rio Grande” is a display of true mastery that makes a fellow fingerstyle player like myself want to grab my guitar and pick the afternoon away. Not only is it filled with power and grace, the intricate picking in this track perfectly complements Kacy’s mesmerizing vocals. It’s a reminder of how a seemingly simple tandem like Kacy and Clayton can create complex and captivating harmonies with just an acoustic guitar and vocals.
Give “The Rio Grande” a listen and be ready to be in awe of the massive talent of this young folk duo. Then when you’re done, give the full album, Strange Country, a spin. Even if you’re not a fingerstyle fan, you’ll find sonic bliss in this tucked-away album filled with many rare gems. Now, if only I had a 12-string...
Chosen by: Ella Steffenberg, Marketing Specialist
Whenever I hear the opening chords to “Masterpiece,” a warmth takes over. The song feels like greeting an old friend; the type that no matter how much time goes by, they will always be there, arms open wide with a gentle smile.
Any fans of lead singer and guitarist Adrianne Lenker know of her songwriting prowess (a true poet), with the ability to pull you in and transport you directly into a specific memory. “Masterpiece” is both the soundtrack and an ode to the passage of time. Whether listening solo through your headphones or catching the track live on tour, the experience is intimate and personal.
And I’d be remiss to leave out the joy that guitarist and vocalist, Buck Meek (a frequent collaborator with Lenker in their respective individual works), sparks each time the song hits his guitar solo. It’s funky, raw, and enthusiastic - just like the delightful unexpectedness of life’s purest moments.
“Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe)”
Chosen by: Brian Caples, Marketing Coordinator
I’m going to come right out and say it - this song has one of the best metal riffs of all time. “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)” was the lead single off of Power Trip’s monstrous 2017 sophomore album Nightmare Logic, an album that breathed new life into the then-tired Crossover Thrash scene. It doesn’t try too hard to be menacing or brutal or spooky, which is what makes it such a heavy song. This song is the audio version of a mosh pit - you’ll get shoved around and may take a boot or two to the head, but you’ll have an incredibly fun time in the process.
However, one of the most impressive things about this song is how the general public embraced it. It seems like you can’t go to a single sporting event these days without hearing this song blasted through the stadium’s speakers at least once. Celebrities like Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Blake Anderson (Workaholics) and even Post Malone have all been vocal about their love for the band. Look through the comments on any Power Trip social media post and you’ll find people discussing how they were introduced (or even re-introduced) to heavy music because of this song. For all of this to happen to a rock band - let alone a metal band - during an era where non-guitar music dominates the airwaves is an insane feat.
While the future of Power Trip is unknown due to the unexpected passing of vocalist Riley Gale in 2020, what we do know is that this metal song will undoubtedly be remembered on the same level as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and Slayer’s “Raining Blood.”
Riley Gale forever!
“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”
Chosen by: Laura Whitmore, SVP of Marketing
The first time I saw Larkin Poe was at a little club in Boston, where I was standing 10 feet away from the stage. I was blown away by their tone and mastery then and I still am today. They have a way of easing into their guitar prowess, connecting intimate pieces of history with an innate sense of what is relevant today.
This song highlights their obvious obsession with the blues and their flair for soulful performances that are stripped down with nothing to hide. It’s an example of how Megan Lovell’s lap steel intertwines with her sister Rebecca’s rhythmic intent and vocal growl to form a musical bond that we have the privilege of being invited to share.
Gary Clark Jr.
Chosen by: Caitlyn McGuire, Influencer Marketing Director
This is one of the few songs I can consider both a love and heartbreak song. The first time I heard “Pearl Cadillac” was on my drive back home to Boston after a long road trip; it was served to me in one of those “made for you” Spotify playlists and I spent the entire song length trying to decipher if this was a blues classic I had never heard before. Once it was over, I replayed it on full blast (the only appropriate way to listen to a song like this) and continued to do so for several months afterwards.
From the immediate heartbeat of the low drum to the first strum of Gary’s guitar, you know exactly how this song will make you feel within the first few seconds. He seamlessly matches old school blues and heartbreak with elevated sounds for a slight modern flair without compromising its roots. The flow of the song makes it feel like he’s having a conversation with the guitar, a back and forth between the falsetto of his voice and the guitar which builds throughout the song. Throw in one of the best blues guitar solos of the modern era and you have a masterpiece of a tune.
The depth of this song makes you carry it with you long after pressing pause and will surely be remembered as a classic.
Chosen by: Jon Hom, Content Marketing Manager
There’s no better way to pull me into a song than with a sick guitar riff, and The Used has never failed to do just that.
Although “Blow Me” was technically released as a single at the end of 2019, it appeared on their 2020 record Heartwork so I’m counting it. The inner emo kid in me rejoiced when I heard the intro to this song; there was just something about the riff that was reminiscent of their earlier work, yet also new and refreshing. The genius of their lone guitarist, Joey Bradford, shines throughout the song with the way his tone perfectly compliments the monstrous vocals of lead singer Bert McCracken, alongside other band members Jeph Howard (Bass) and Dan Whitesides (Drums).
The intro riff that makes an appearance throughout the song isn’t the only shining beacon that Bradford brings to the table. The verse features a somewhat broken down version of the riff that is simple, yet effective, which eventually leads into their signature power chord filled chorus which also gives nod to the main riff throughout. Tie it up with an absolutely brutal breakdown of an ender and this emo kid couldn’t be any happier.
Final Thoughts: The Best Guitar Songs of the Past 10 Years
Looking to jam out with any of the songs listed here? Well, we've got a practice amp just for you. A powerhouse 40 Watt combo, Spark is a smart amp and app that jams along with you using Intelligent Technology, with backing tracks available for any style you play. Including over 10,000 tones (and counting!) on the Positive Grid ToneCloud, you’ll never run out of inspiration. Plus, you can use Spark as your USB audio interface for easy home recording and track your ideas with the included PreSonus Studio One Prime recording software. Find out more here.
Brian Caples is Positive Grid’s Marketing Coordinator and a lifelong music obsessive. When not on the clock, his favorite hobby is torturing loved ones with useless trivia about obscure punk and metal bands. His work has appeared in The Women’s International Music Network, Mandolin Cafe, ArtistWorks and more.