Whew, what a year, right? Yeah, we’re all aware of how garbage 2020 has been, but it wasn’t all bad. While we were locked-in and going stir-crazy, at least we had some awesome, AWESOME jams to get through Hell on Earth. It’s clear there were big wins from big artists, like The Weeknd, Dance Gavin Dance, Oliver Tree, etc., but the smaller bands put out pure gold, as well. These artists, who relied on touring/shows as their source of income, are now getting by with Bandcamp Fridays and their day jobs (if they were lucky enough not to get furloughed or flat-out lose their jobs). So, I’m shining some spotlight on the bands that aren’t getting enough attention in this 2020 top 10 list.
I gave out two 10/10s when I started scoring my reviews this year. NOM∀DIC’s Euphoria earned my first one. A concept album on the human state that was desperately-needed in the middle of 2020, Euphoria is a masterclass in lyricism, with punishing delivery backed up by a unique blend of progressive metalcore and blackened death metal. The agonized lyric “The only thing keeping me alive is wanting to die” in “Blue Jay” crushed me knowing its backstory after interviewing vocalist James. I bought booty shorts for this band because that’s just how much Euphoria impacted me.
Stumbling upon Galleons was my first remarkable discovery when searching for bands to cover when I was just starting out. Shocked by how much I was digging what I had heard of Metropolis beforehand, finding the band was a real treat. It’s easy to love any band that adapts to the “swancore” style, but Galleons goes above and beyond with out-of-this-world vocal delivery and a variety between tracks where one can be funky, the next could be punishing. This band’s got a bright future signing to Famined Records with their best-performing single yet, as 2021 will see LP3.
3. Kane Lacey – All Planned Yet Not Thought Out Yet
Youtuber/Streamer Kane Lacey always had a charming musical side to him, and 2020 saw him release his first 2 records to the world. June saw the intriguing Started in an Empty House, but Lacey really came into his own with November’s All Planned Yet Not Thought Out Yet. Hard not to put on repeat, Kane packs a lot into his short song lengths, with flirty hooks backed by his own impressive, layered production. His trademark humor comes out in his music videos which I always look forward to. Give Kane a try if you want some smooth songs to vibe to!
4. pulses. – Speak It Into Existence
It’s hard to characterize pulses. by any one genre, because the soundscape stretches wildly between each song in their 2020 release Speak It Into Existence. Where most bands shine with a frontman, every instrument in a pulses. track gets the spotlight – even the bass. Vocals span from focused uncleans, to soaring cleans, to wacky raps. The high energy and skill at hand in “Olivia Wild,” “Plastiglomerate,” and others is invigorating. You’ll keep coming back to Speak It Into Existence, that’s a guarantee.
Berried Alive gets quite a bit more streams than the other artists on this list, but I rarely see any coverage on the group – which is criminal. The husband/wife duo of Charles and Kaylie Caswell, Berried Alive puts out the most mind-blowing instrumentation I have ever heard – no hyperbole. Fuego is home to 11 barrages of berry brutal bangers. Charles also has a devastating growl that only gets better with every record. If the vocals are offputting, check out the instrumental version of Fuego.
Properties of Nature has been dropping singles since 2018, but it came time in 2020 for them to see their ideas come together in their debut record, Wolves in Business Suits. This is a group demanding multiple listens with everything that goes on at once, with dual guitar riffs that cannot go underappreciated. Typically, a band releases their best/most-marketable music in their singles, but I came to love what PoN had to offer in the non-singles of this album, especially in the near seven-minute “One Nightstand” that kept me hooked from start to finish.
7. The Safest Ledge – The Space Between Words
When I worked with The Safest Ledge to write their band bio for their single “Grey Matter,” I didn’t consider them a client – I considered myself an instant fan of something great. This underrated emo powerhouse keeps the genre alive and kicking with The Space Between Words, five back-to-back introspective pieces that incorporate sadness with lyrics set to resonate with listeners. Records like this deserve to be heard by anyone even remotely interested in the genre.
You may know Jarrod Alonge as the “Every Pop-Punk Vocalist” guy, but he expounded upon his parodical musings of the music industry with several releases the past few years, spanning several genres. His comical take on deathcore, Vermicide Violence, released an album this year, The Praxis of Prophylaxis, that got more than just a few guffaws out of me, spoofing Born of Osiris, Whitechapel, and every band in-between. Your best access point is the medley closer, “Reign of Deafness” – see how many songs you can recognize!
I can’t believe this album only has a few thousand streams. Lost Conduit got so many deathcore vocalists as a feature for their album Astral, it’s ridiculous. Whether it’s Ben Duerr, Dan Watson, or Jonathan Carpenter, you get a who’s-who in half the tracks of this record. And when there isn’t a guest vocalist, you’re treated to some pretty fantastic spacey, djenty deathcore that doesn’t let up from track 1 to 10. A must-listen for fans of the heavy.
You have to do some pretty impressive stuff to brand your own genre, and The Wise Man’s Fear have done just that. Dubbed “Fantasycore” and wholeheartedly embracing the moniker, Valley of Kings continues the world-building story that the band has been creating for several albums now. A fresh signing from the wonderful Sharptone Records, we’re glad The Wise Man’s Fear is finally picking up steam in 2020.
Bilmuri – Eggy Pocket
While everyone buzzes about the return of Attack Attack! at the tail end of 2020, the heart of the band has persisted in Beartooth and Bilmuri. Previous guitarist/vocalist Johnny Franck’s continuation of at least 2 releases a year culminated in his best work yet in Eggy Pocket. This is the part of AA! that warrants the hype.
Coletta gathered a lot of attention this year, signing to We Are Triumphant and releasing some (deservedly) well-performing singles. The wait felt like an eternity after their top-tier EP Mind & Time in 2018, but I’m just glad to have something from the band at the tail-end of 2020. This psychedelic thrill-ride needs more time to marinate for me, but I’m adoring it so far.
The newest offering from waveform* is mystifying, intriguing, and certainly worth the succinct 30 minutes of tunes it provides. I love this record, but lost it in the mix across 2020. It merits a mention here as it deserves way more plays than it currently has.
So, what releases in 2020 did WE miss out on? Let us know!