Albums of 2017: 30-16 Josh Shreeve December 11, 2017 It’s December, or as we like to call it; the month of lists. Be it that present wish list you’ve been working on or the shopping list for the big Christmas Day meal, we love them, and none more so than our Albums of the Year. The VLM team have put their heads together once more and come up with our favourite 30 from 2017. Here’s the first 15. Check back next week for the final rundown. 30. Khalid – ‘American Teen’ At just 19 years old, Khalid is the youngest artist in this year’s list. Relatively unknown at the start of the year, he’s impressed not only with his debut album but also features alongside Calvin Harris and Marshmello. American Teen is an effortless debut, throwing back to old school R&B melodies. It’s an early indicator that Khalid means business. Key Track: ‘8TEEN’ Where will they be in 2018? He won’t want to wish his last teenage year away but Khalid’s supporting megastar Bruno Mars at British Summer Time in Hyde Park in July. 29. Formation – ‘Look At The Powerful People’ Look At The Powerful People was Formation’s statement of intent. The debut from the London five-piece was packed to the brim with a mix of thought-provoking messages backed by heavy synths. Support from The Street’s Mike Skinner on ‘Powerful People’ and nods of inspiration to LCD Soundsystem and Underworld make it one of the most exciting debuts this year. Key Track: ‘Pleasure’ Where will they be in 2018? The twin brothers have already started working on new material and are currently in America. Expect to hear something new when they’re back on UK soil. 28. Slowdive – ‘Slowdive’ Many of the artists on this list weren’t even born the last time Slowdive released an album. The Reading band were last heard on their album Pygmalion 22 years ago but have returned triumphantly this year, even maintaining enough relevance to feature on the FIFA 18 soundtrack. Their fourth studio album contains a mere eight tracks but what the record lacks in quantity it turns over in quality. There’s melancholic and broody guitars aplenty here. Key Track: ‘Sugar for the Pill’ Where will they be in 2018? After a run of shows supporting U2 this year, Japan and Australia await the band in the new year. Who knows if it’ll be another 22 years until we hear from them again. 27. Jay-Z – ‘4:44’ In the wake of his other half’s commandeering album ‘Lemonade’ came Jay-Z’s rather introspective efforts in the form of ‘4:44’ this year. Along with his four-year hiatus from music, his newly-founded fatherhood seems to have suitably grounded the conscious hip-hop artist in creating a thought-provoking, social commentary on the current state of affairs in Trump’s America. Key Track: ‘The Story of O.J.’ Where will they be in 2018? Aside from attending next year’s Grammy awards, which he should remain optimistic for, he’ll probably be looking after the kids (sorry man, Beyoncé’s gotta go and perform). 26. The War on Drugs – ‘A Deeper Understanding’ Love it or hate it, The War on Drugs are like Springsteen’s second coming. They’re an evolution of that heartland rock, big 80s riffiness retrofitted to emotionally devastate. A Deeper Understanding has this beautiful duality; teary headphone-listen yet also soundtrack to the next Great American Novel. War on Drugs are so good because they know the power in this contrast; the songs rolling but with immense weight, like clouds over the plains, and more often than not they bring the thunder. Key Track: ‘Pain’ Where will they be in 2018? For those of us in Blighty we’ve just missed the group, and it’s gonna be a while till they’re back. In June they’re playing London’s brand-spanking-new All Points East festival, underneath The National and above Future Islands – a VLM favourite sandwich. 25. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ King Gizzard’s exploration into the world of microtonal tuning is one of the bands most experimental, psychedelic and satisfying albums to date. A dystopian world of nuclear waste leads them to traveling the open water like vikings, lucid dreams and breaking laws in wild west towns. It’s a bleak prediction of what the world could look like but King Gizzard make it all sound quite fun. Key Track: ‘Rattlesnake’ Where will they be in 2018? With four out of a rumoured five albums released this year alone, we’re bound to get at least one new record from the most prolific band in music today. They’re also set to tour Europe in February next year. 24. Gorillaz – ‘Humanz’ After seven years out of action, Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz returned in style, dropping four tracks in one single day. What was to follow wasn’t their greatest work to date, but instead a platform to show off their genre-bending music, with the help of clever features from Vince Staples, Popcaan, Kelela and stalwarts De La Soul. Key Track: ‘Ascension (feat. Vince Staples)’ Where will they be in 2018? Almost definitely headlining more festivals and taking over social media as Murdoch and 2D once more. 23. Four Tet – ‘New Energy’ Kieran Hebden tries to keep it low key. Focusing on chilled soundscapes, his work as Four Tet always seemed more content to stay in the shadows, like his close friend Burial, whilst his other pals chose to dominate the dancier side of their collective sound. That’s out of the window on New Energy, which finally manages to reconcile the gentle warmth in his work and his desire to make smart-house monsters. Hedben will make you move but you’ve gotta work for it, and the payoff is stunning. Key Track: ‘SW9 9SL’ Where will they be in 2018? This is gonna be special; Hebden truly shines in the live arena and in February he’s got a slew of sold-out UK shows coming. 22. St Vincent – ‘MASSEDUCTION’ On Annie Clark’s sixth record as St. Vincent, all the same topics of her previous albums arise: fame, fraudulence and the future – however, following her heavily spectated relationship with Cara Delevingne, ‘MASSEDUCTION’ turns the focus in on herself. It’s a personal portrayal of the champagne-lifestyle she was so quickly thrust into, while remaining witty, synth-ridden and damn right sexy. She’s no longer hiding from modern life or the media which she so creatively satirises, but instead toying with them in a style that only St Vincent could master. Key Track: ‘Los Ageless’ Where will they be in 2018? Her aptly titled, ‘Fear the Future’ tour continues through America in the early part of the year, before she embarks on her full-length directorial debut for the all-female remake of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’. 21. Thundercat – ‘Drunk’ Preeminent bassist and songwriter Thundercat, aka Stephen Bruner, released his hotly-anticipated third studio album earlier this year. In a year filled with a ubiquitous sense of rnb, soul, and jazz, ‘Drunk’ ultimately stands on its own as an oddball soul album capturing Bruner’s whimsical take on entrenched genre. With an impressively elective list of features, ranging from Kenny Loggins to Kendrick Lamar, this album is not to be missed by those looking for a more experimental experience of such aforementioned genres. Key Track: ‘Show You The Way’ Where will they be in 2018? After performing at Glastonbury and touring the UK last month on his album cycle, it may be too late to catch him live – but never say never! Keep an eye out for him featuring on other prominent albums though. 20. Mac DeMarco – ‘This Old Dog’ Pepperoni Playboy Mac DeMarco’s mellowed with every new release, less prone to childish antics and letting the music speak for itself. This Old Dog is suitably pensive, opening up to the distance between Mac and his father. Everything sounds more relaxed and less agitated by contesting sounds. It’s Mac making himself comfortable, and that’s just fine. Key Track: ‘On The Level’ Where will they be in 2018? Taking it easy. Having made his name as an infamous slacker, Mac’s had a rammed schedule for the last couple of years and it’s time for a breather. 19. The XX – ‘I See You’ The horns that welcome opening track ‘Dangerous’ are a sign of what’s to come on The XX’s third album. It’s a record that’s at its best when Jamie XX is allowed to run away with his tight production and clever samples of Alessi Brothers and Hall & Oates on ‘Say Something Loving’ and ‘On Hold’ respectively. Key Track: ‘Dangerous’ Where will they be in 2018? Touring Australia and Asia in the New Year before headlining new London festival ‘All Points East’ in May. This album’s cycle may be coming to an end but that means it could be time for another Jamie XX record in 2018. 18. Brockhampton – ‘Saturation’ The first in a trio of projects released within six months this year, Saturation, by American rap group Brockhampton. They vary in numbers – around eleven vocalists and producers make up the collective – but this allows them to blend an array of hip hop sounds and textures into every song. On this effort there’s nods to Frank Ocean and Kanye as well as 90s boy band melodies on ‘Gold’ and ‘Swim’. Key Track: ‘Gold’ Where will they be in 2018? Who knows. Saturation III is released later this month and rumoured to be the last from the group. Expect to see some of the individuals like founder Kevin Abstract go onto big things though. 17. Mura Masa – ‘Mura Masa’ Few have had more collaborations on their debut album than Mura Masa. But what could’ve been an over-saturated messy pop record instead showed off the producer’s versatility to work with big pop stars (Charli XCX), global rappers (A$AP Rocky) and iconic names (Damon Albarn). That’s not to mention the brilliant vocals lent by Bonzai on two of the albums most catchy tracks. It’s cool, upbeat and the songs you should be spinning at your New Years party. Key Track: ‘Love$ick (feat. A$AP Rocky)’ Where will they be in 2018? Expect more collaborations in the new year with artists as big as Kendrick Lamar set to flock. The rapper recorded DAMN in the same studios as Mura Masa and was impressed with what he heard. 16. Stormzy – ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ When that video of six-foot-four rapper Stormzy riding through London out the roof of a police car first appeared, you knew a storm was coming. Where ‘Big For your Boots’ was the statement track from the album, ‘Blinded By Your Grace, Pt. 1’ and ‘Pt. 2’ showed another side to Stormzy with their gospel undertones. If the music wasn’t enough, it’s fair to say the rapper has become one of 2017’s social media sensations. Key Track: ‘Big For Your Boots’ Where will they be in 2018? Probably planning on a house extension, to fit all those gongs he’s been picking up and will continue to scoop up in 2018. Next week we finish our Albums of 2017 with albums fifteen to number 1. Sketch by Rory Brown.