The 20 best guitar albums of 2020

Best albums of the year 2020
(Image credit: Debra L Rothenberg/David Wolff-Patrick/Paul Morigi/Getty Images / Olly Curtis/Future)

Dear readers, your votes have been cast, counted and your choice of best guitar album of 2020 has been thrown to the tender mercies of the democratic process. 

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[L-R] Mark Tremonti, Stephen Carpenter, Matt Heafy and Daron Malakian

(Image credit: Paul Bergen/Sergione Infuso/Frank Hoensch/Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images)

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STAFF PICK: Adrianne Lenker - songs/instrumentals 

Recorded in a secluded cabin in the woods of Western Massachusetts, Adrianne Lenker's songs/instrumentals is one of the great double-albums of the 21st century so far. Its two diametrically opposing halves are tied together with skillful, hypnotically beautiful acoustic guitar playing that tethers Lenker's songs to earth, while – sometimes almost in the same breath – simultaneously pushes them to scarcely believable heights. – Jackson Maxwell


STAFF PICK: Pallbearer – Forgotten Days

Ironically enough, this masterpiece from Pallbearer was forgotten from this coveted list. Fortunately, we’re on hand to administer some editorial CPR, restoring both balance and order to the chaotic planetary network that is this year’s top guitar albums. Sure, Open Source is the Sun around which the other celestial bodies orbit, and while heavyweights Terminal Velocity and C.S.I.L. may take the place of Jupiter and Saturn, somewhere in the latter’s rings sits Forgotten Days, with enough doom-metal weight to keep the entire system from collapsing. – Sam Roche


STAFF PICK: Loathe - I Let It in and It Took Everything

2020 was set to play host to a new Deftones album, but in February – before the world fell apart – underground UK metallers Loathe released a collection of baritone-fuelled anthems so brutally beautiful that the collective guitar consciousness briefly forgot about the long wait for Stef Carpenter and co's latest opus. Yet to make such comparisons sells ILIIAITE's ambition short; its metalcore freneticism is tempered by ambient interludes, driving alt-rock and melodic hardcore – not to mention littered with must-learn riffs across an astonishingly realized 14-track journey. – Michael Astley-Brown

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.