The 10 best albums of 2020 you haven't heard

a montage of alternative artists of the year
(Image credit: Press/Maud The Moth/LustSickPuppy/CLT DRP)

Despite everything, 2020 has seen a raft of excellent new music released into the world. Rock and metal scenes have been popping with much anticipated releases from big name artists including Lamb Of God, IDLES, and Deftones. But while AC/DC were breaking records around the world, there were hundreds of smaller releases which risked falling through the cracks. 

This year, we found the most enjoyment in some of the least obvious places. We’ve collected 10 under-appreciated and overlooked albums from this year which we think are deserving of your ears. Noise, punk, existential psychedelic folk – it’s all here.

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10) Emile - The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord 

Sadly, if you click on this man’s Spotify profile, you have a one in ten chance of accidentally hearing some middle-of-the-road reggaeton dance pop. It's worth persevering, though: if you make it far enough to find the actual artist, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most devastatingly philosophical folk rock you'll ever hear, with some of the loveliest harmonies of the year. Also, a very convincing argument that there is no god.

9) Sightless Pit - Grave Of A Dog

Lingua Ignota’s supergroup with The Body and Full Of Hell is quite possibly too bleak and noise-fuelled for a lot of listeners to want to approach it. It’s one hell of a collaboration, though, with each of the three artists taking turns at the forefront of each track. Despite being championed by YouTuber Anthony Fantano, it seems that, due to COVID and 2020 2020-ing, the album hasn't quite made the same impact as the three artists’ solo projects. We suggest giving it a listen on a day when you’re feeling particularly robust.

8) Maud The Moth - Orphne

If you like your metal esoteric, and Chelsea Wolfe just isn’t enough for you, check out the exquisite neo-classical tones of Maud The Moth. This album goes deep, tackling themes including the inner cosmos of the individual and women’s identity, explored through the architecture of an abandoned mansion. It’s beautiful, creepy stuff, and we haven’t been able to stop playing it.

7) LustSickPuppy - Cosmic Brownie EP

Okay, so not technically an album, but one of the most exciting debut EPs of the year definitely deserves a spot on this list, if only to help this absolutely wild act get the listeners she deserves. LustSickPuppy sounds like the bedroom hip-hop-meets-metal act from hell; a mixture of Death Grips and Lightning Bolt with performance art and hyperpop thrown in for good measure. Check out her Instagram as well for some seriously impressive SFX makeup.

6) Blacklab - Abyss 

Witchy occult doom from Japan comes in the form of Blacklab; two women, a drum kit, a guitar, and one hell of a pedal board. The fuzz coming out of this outfit is something to behold, and Abyss contains one of their best songs to date – the aptly titled Insanity. They get bonus points for sounding like everything’s been recorded in a tin can – we can promise you this adds to the effect.

5) Honey Joy - II

Meg, the vocalist of London punk band Honey Joy, has blamed the pandemic for stunting the impact that II should have had on the music industry. “When you’re a DIY band, you just rely on [touring],” she told us. “How often have you gone back to check out a band you saw supporting someone else who you liked? It feels like, although we have a record out, we haven’t been able to get it out there.” 

Tragically, this might result in people sleeping on some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and honest lyrics we’ve come across this year. 

4) CLT DRP - Without The Eyes

CLT DRP's Where The Boys Are is one of the best heavy songs of 2020. Fact. Raw slabs of punk energy collide with spiky synth lines and stampeding drums. Eerie falsetto vocals build throughout the song to explode into a chorus decrying second wave feminism with enough passion and nuance to soundtrack the revolution that it could possibly also kickstart. Miss this phenomenal debut from the leaders of Brighton’s new wave of avant garde punk at your peril.

3) Sex Swing - Type II

We’re just gonna put it out there – we need more apocalyptic post punk like Sex Swing in these times. Sex Swing's most popular song on Spotify is a remix by Bristol punks IDLES, but it’s more Swans and Suicide to whom this band owe their influence. Valentine’s Day At The Gym channels that hypnotic monotone of Alan Vega and Betting Shop sounds like a perverted Beach Boys song sung by demons. A fantastic, noisy and unsettling record which oozes like a rotting steak.

2) Couch Slut - Take A Chance On Rock ‘n Roll

This New York-based noise rock band combines both punk and sludge elements in their onslaught of sound, led by Megan O’s larynx-shredding vocals, and Take A Chance On Rock ‘n Roll is a truly blistering set. The songs blend from one to one another, and there’s also a nice trumpet solo towards the end. It’s the band’s most accessible release to date, which, when you listen to it, you'll realise is really saying something about the others. 

1) Vile Creature - Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!

It feels odd to be classing this album as “underrated”, since the waves it made in the doom metal community upon release were seismic. However, these guys are still nowhere near as well-known as they should be. Vic’s inhuman screeches soar over crushing guitar tones, and the double whammy of Glory! Glory! and Apathy Took Helm! as an album finale melds together gossamer strands of mostly a cappella choral song with one of the heaviest riffs of the year. Stick this one on for the heaviest, doomiest doom of 2020 – and a healthy dose of queer activism at the same time.