2018 was the year of Mitski, Denzel Curry, Robyn and Kacey Musgraves, but there were also records that flew under the radar a bit lower than we thought they should. Some of these albums, like Rosalía’s El Mal Querer or Devotion by Tirzah, popped up on end-of-year lists. Others, like Daphne & Celeste (remember early-2000s ear-worm ‘U.G.L.Y.’?), sunk without a trace. What ties this list together is a sense these artists deserved exposure beyond niche critical acclaim.

Dead Magic

Anna von Hausswolff

It doesn’t get much witchier than this avant-goth masterpiece by Swedish maestro, Anna Von Hausswolff. In my mind, Dead Magic was a companion piece to my favourite film of 2018, Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse. Both reduced me to a state that I can only describe as “exhilarated dread”. – Sophie Miles

El Mal Querer

Rosalía

Spanish artist Rosalía knew that flamenco – with all its melodrama and intensity – was the perfect language for a concept record about a doomed relationship. But she went a step further, folding in her love of modern R&B, James Blake, Justin Timberlake, Arthur Russell, and Destiny’s Child in a way that seemed impossibly effortless. With production from fellow Spaniard El Guincho (whose 2010 album Pop Negro is an underrated gem in its own right), El Mal Querer is the flamenco-R&B fusion you didn’t know you needed in your life. – Darren Levin

Norf: The Legend of Hotboy Ronald

Lorde Fredd33

What is it that makes Milwaukee rapper Lorde Fredd33’s debut record so impressive? It’s the way he flips between the brooding and the manic; the way interpolations come and go like half-formed memories; the way he experiments with flows and cadences; and the way he paints a vivid and unforgiving picture of tribulation. Easily the best recommendation to come across my newsfeed in 2018. – Conor Herbert

Get Better

Bad Sounds

Combining hip-hop production with British pop and soul, brothers Ewan and Callum created a dance-provoking, colourfully funky niche of their own that stays consistent throughout the album’s 13 tracks. It’s a trip worth taking – from the falsetto-heavy ‘How Are You Gonna Lose?’ to the Talking Heads-esque ‘Milk It’. – Missy Scheinberg

An Angel Fell

Idris Ackamoor

How many world-class saxophonists can also tap dance? Idris Ackamoor is the unheralded musical polymath who brought his spiritual jazz outfit The Pyramids back to life in 2010. An Angel Fell is the latest in a trilogy of releases since that reformation; a collection of global sounds – from Afro-jazz to dub – that feel out of this world and so connected to it at the same time (see his soliloquy for slain Ferguson teenager Michael Brown). – Darren Levin

CIVIL DISORDER

RAT BOY

Essex’s one-man band RAT BOY has been consistently delivering his unique brand of political punk-meets-hip-hop (imagine a Beastie Boys/The Clash hybrid),  and he did it again with this surprise mini-album released at the start of 2018. While YUNGBLUD’s fantastic 21st Century Liability seemed to eclipse CIVIL DISORDER in the Mike Skinner-goes-punk space, this genre-bending album – with production from Clams Casino – did more than whet the appetite for a full-length collaboration with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong in 2019. – Missy Scheinberg

Love in the Wind

The Sha La Das

Their backstory is almost as perfect as their sound – this little-known Staten Island, New York ensemble are comprised of a father and his three adult sons, whom he taught to sing multi-part harmonies when they were just kids. Paired with crack producer Tommy “TNT” Brenneck and backing players on loan from The Dap-Kings and the late Charles Bradley’s band, The Sha La Das’ bring the intimacy of street-corner doo wop to sumptuous layers of psychedelic soul. Mind-blowing right from lead track ‘Open My Eyes’, this is a total treasure. – Doug Wallen

Cyanide Thornton

Cyanide Thornton

These seven songs from the Melbourne band fronted by Sienna Thornton (Two Steps On The Water) struck me for their extraordinary storytelling. Carrying them are melodies that entrance and ensnare – even when they’re simple. Closing track ‘Heavy and Wide’ – an album highlight – tells the a tale of fate and the fragility of life. Told with equal parts music and lyrics, I’ve kept coming back to it all year. – Izzy Tolhurst

Outlandish Poetics

Jonathan Something

From seemingly out of nowhere (but really Brooklyn, Connecticut) came writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Something with an album that combines classic indie-rock sounds, spectacular storytelling, and DIY-yet-sleek production for a timeless sound. – Missy Scheinberg

WARM

Jeff Tweedy

Not even your dad considers Jeff Tweedy underrated, but our cultural obsession with the new means you’re unlikely to see the Wilco frontman near the business end of many year-ending lists. It’s a shame because WARM is his best album since 2014’s Sukierae (with his son Spencer) and a wonderful companion piece to his warts-and-all memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). Like his book, WARM is a heartwarming, poignantly honest portrayal of a man in his 50s still working shit out. – Darren Levin

Parcels

Parcels

I will bang on about Parcels to anyone who will listen. They’re not the most original band out there, but on their debut self-titled album, the Byron Bay lads blend influences such as Daft Punk, Chic and The Beach Boys so seamlessly and skilfully it doesn’t really matter that they’re not reinventing the wheel. – Annabel Ross

Devotion

Tirzah

There’s not a moment on this South Londoner’s debut that doesn’t feel like you’re eavesdropping. Cobbled together over several years with childhood friend Micachu (aka Mica Levi, from Micachu and the Shapes fame), Devotion is a collection of unashamed love songs recorded in a minimal and imperfect fashion so you know it’s real. – Darren Levin

Daphne & Celeste Save The World

Daphne & Celeste

I wasn’t really a massive fan of Daphne & Celeste growing up, so I came to this record with few expectations and ended up being completely floored. It’s one of the year’s brightest and most creative pop records, and wouldn’t feel out of place with the PC Music crowd at all. Completely sunk without a trace – to the point where I genuinely wondered if a single other person heard it. – David James Young

Something Else