J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr)
The whole concept of indie rock really came about in the eighty's, at a time when the mainstream's arteries were clogged with the cholesterol gunk that is arena metal, chock full of huge guitar riffs and solos. As much as they hate to admit it, indie tends to be ruled by going against whats on the top of the charts, and so for the eighty's underground loving you guitar the epitome of uncool. No big riffs, no solos, no crazy distortion. The guitar driven band was out. This guy brought it back. Employing searchingly loud tones and more effects pedals than could fit in the average three bedroom apartment, he somehow was able to create some of the funnest nosiest guitar tones of the time while still pulling some self desecrating understated songs. J Mascis was here to show us that three full stacks of Marchall amps and being a douche bag do not always go hand in hand.
Favorite performance: Kracked
Really, it doesn't seem like Kaki King actually knows how to play guitar. Which is to say she seems to think its a drum set, or a slap bass, or a god knows what. Extreme virtuosity does not even begin to describe the crazy shit she does to it. And further more, she makes it look easy. Makes it look like she could do it with her eyes closed, fuck, sometimes does do it with her eyes closed. She makes the guitar her bitch and, sure, when she tries to sing the songs don't come out that great, but it takes a while to pick you jaw up off the ground before you notice that.
Favorite performance: Playing With Pink Noise
Victor Villarreal (Cap'n Jazz, Ghosts and Vodka, Owls)
Heroin junkie, recluse, and general fucking crazy person, Victor Villarreal has been crafting some of the most ridiculous guitar lines ever herd for about twenty years now. His playing tends to sound something like a cross between avant-jazz and punk rock played by a man in a blindfold. His fingers jump up and down the fretboard in a seemingly random pattern that pulls everyone listening in a hundred different directions. Start-stops? Check. Time signature changes? You bet. Abandoning a melodic line in the middle for no reason? Yep. Anything to make listeners tick. And somehow it works out beautifully.
Favorite performance: Everyone is My Friend
Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai)
A good deal of post-rock bands employ huge orchestrations and classical music inspired licks to build their trademarked crescendo. They also do this to separate themselves from what's seen as the standard rock sound. This being said, Mogwai surely is the guitarist's post-rock band, going against the norms of the genre to create something that shows the instrument without filter or distraction. Braithwaite moves his band from arty and awkward licks to metal and shoegaze straight back to post-rock, from beautiful to destructive, from the blissfully ambient to something that grabs immediate attention, all with an astounding natural fluidity. He also has a really cool and uncommon first name...just gonna put that out there.
Favorite performance: Yes! I am a long way from home
Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie)
Despite playing with obnoxious sentimentalists Death Cab for Cutie, Chris Walla rocks in pretty much every way. Its not like hes changing how the guitar is played but there is something continuously beautiful and captivating about his instrumentation. Never too intricate, and never at all showy, he finds the most remarkable tones that add such an amazing element to the generally lackluster songs of his band. It really makes you wonder why hes hanging out with those guys.
Favorite performance: 405
Alright, to be fair he does slightly exceed our thirty year cut off, but no one has affected how a guitar is played like this man. "Played" in itself might be a bit of a stretch to describe mind numbing violence he inflicts on his instrument, creating some of the most unpleasant and passionate sounds his side of Merzbow. After messing around a bit in a few no-wave bands, burning holes in eardrums throughout downtown Manhattan, he began writing entire symphonies for between three and one hundred guitars. In no time this man was able to establish himself as a kind of Philip Glass for dissonance junkies and managed to enlist an impressive array of young proteges, such as Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. It could be said that he raised the guitar to the status of chamber instrument, but it also could be said that reviled the potential in classical composition for rage and destruction. Either way he's done wonders.
Favorite performance: THIS
Brian Gibson (Lightning Bolt)
I know what your thinking: Brian Gibson doesn't play the guitar. Alright, your probably not actually thinking that right now but either way - I don't give a fuck. The fact that he is wielding a bass even further emphasises the ridiculous ability of this man. In a technical sense he has his fingers flying up and down the fretboard faster than the synapses fire in most guitarist's brains. Creatively he is able to improvise the most energetic and explosive lines this side of.... no, there is no other band that even approaches the energy of Lightning Bolt. Even technologically he triumphs, with a mountain of different amps and just a few pedals he squeezes out of his bass guitar sounds ranging from the screeching high to thunderous lows. This man is surly a machine.
Favorite performance: 2 Morro Morro Land
Mike Kinsella (American Football, Owen)
After hanging around on drums or bass in a number of his brother's bands, Mike finally took the spot light and reviled himself to be... whiny as a mother-fucker. All joking aside, he also came out as one of the premier guitar voices of the zeros. Boiling down all the progress made from the stream of post-hardcore bands him and all his former band-mates had been involved in, American Football emerged awashed in flowing pattens. Mike frequently alt tunes his guitar and uses a stream of single notes as a rhythm part to keep afloat his plain spoken lyrics. His guitar style would also keep afloat scores of imitators in the later part of this decade.
Favorite performance: A Fever Analog
Gihm does not write his own songs. He only plays covers. Gihm does not release albums. He only displays on youtube. Gihm does not show his face. Gihm is basically everything we should, as music snobs, look down on. Gihm is also a god. There is no other way to say this. He works by striping down a song of multiple guitar lines and arranging them for one guitar. Which is to say he plays three or more parts at the same time, he is a band all onto himself. Let me say this again. He plays three guitar parts all at the same time all on one guitar. He creates building emotional compositions of absolutely ridiculous technical skill that often times surpasses the songs he is covering. He is the king of all virtuosos. He is... Gihm is a fucking god.
Favorite performance: Cover of Rachel's Water From the Same Source