The VLM’s Top 20 Albums of 2018 Will Fisher December 22, 2018 In 2018 we saw Trump come out in his full and foul colours. With his politics came a whole host of retaliation, but boy did that result in some great albums. Over half of our albums this year have something to say about that angry satsuma in the White House. Not every album is Trump-related thankfully but each of our album has its own message that we heard loud and clear and subsequently loved. From albums full of austerity to records of resistance and just about everything in between, here’s our top 20 albums of 2018. Enjoy. 20. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food The first of two albums released in 2018 by the psychedelic trio had us lusting over its lyricism and hungry for more. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s fourth album was beautifully introverted and otherwordly. An admirably austere return by Rubin Nielson and co. Release Date: 06 April Key Track: ‘Hunnybee’ 19. Ariana Grande – Sweetener A year when pop giants took their holiday, Ariana found her true voice and stole the throne for 2018. Sweetener is an album documenting a popstar’s journey from dark to the light, and from this light to a beacon of hope. If God truly is a woman, Ariana’s fourth album should soundtrack the stairway to the pearly gates. Release Date: 17 August Key Track: ‘God is a Woman’ 18. Bad Sounds – Get Better One of our ‘Eyes on 2018’ artists, the brothers from Bath have created an immersive and bonkers debut. Featuring some of their best work over the two previous EP’s and some hot new tracks, Get Better does as you would hope, it heals. With explosive hooks, witty lyrics and a care free attitude, Bad Sounds have brought the party on an album we can’t help but play on repeat. Release Date: 17 August Key Track: ‘Avalanche’ 17. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar ‘Alternative lo-fi R&B’, ‘melt throbbing dub with roots reggae’ and ‘scrappy soul’ are just some ways critics have tried to pinpoint Young Fathers sound. The Scottish trio’s third full-length however revels in breaking down the absurdity of genres. It is barmy, brave and bouncy in parts, but also bloody brilliant. Release Date: 09 March Key Track: ‘Toy’ 16. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran Glitch-ridden snyths combined with bold rapping make this entirely self produced album a joy. JPEGMAFIA’s fourth solo work is a political fire cracker inspired by an internet era of discourse in America. Veteran is an immersive listen which transports the listener to a cyber spaceage of chaos, not far from reality. Release Date: 19 January Key Track: ‘Thug Tears’ 15. Parcels – Parcels Ballsy basslines and bold hooks make Parcels’ eponymous debut a funk-filled triumph. The band’s fresh remodelling of disco, shows the musical maturity of the young Australian five piece. More firmly routed in reality then Daft Punk’s robo-disco, Parcels is more private jet then space odyssey, yet it makes for a record that is accessible as it is audacious. Release Date: 12 October Key Track: ‘Lightenup’ 14. MGMT – Little Dark Age Inspired by the rise of evil and political poison by Trump, MGMT felt obliged to make the remedy – a pop album full of euphoria. Little Dark Age trumped those who doubted MGMT could return with the same level of synth-soaked energy found on Oracular Spectacular. Release Date: 09 February Key Track: ‘Me and Michael’ 13. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS It’s been a pretty rocky year for Kanye whose opinions have massively restricted the chances of his music ever reaching the heights of previous years. This is the standout in a handful of Ye produced records this year, as he teams up with Kid Cudi to make a dark, brooding album, consistent over seven tracks packed with a punk attitude. Release Date: 08 June Key Track: ‘Feel the Love’ feat. Pusha T 12. U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited One of the few things we can thank Trump for, is inspiring politically charged pop music. In a Poem Unlimited is full of just that. Meg Remy’s seventh studio album is full of fire but equally full of glam and glorious elements of surf-rock, dance and more. A glorious jamboree, celebrating and sorrowing in equal measures, the America of 2018. Release Date: 16 February Key Track: ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ 11. Low – Double Negative Low’s twelfth album, Double Negative is as austere as you would assume. Once again it is an album response to Trump’s woeful America and its political contradictions. 25 years into their career, Double Negative’s ambition, experimentation and sonic texture suggest a band in their prime. Release Date: 14 September Key Track: ‘Dancing and Blood’ 10. Maribou State – Kingdoms In Colour An exotic yet smart use of samples make Maribou State’s second album a technicolor sensation. Kingdoms in Colour is a kaleidoscopic and cohesive collection of tracks by the Hertfordshire Duo. Featuring samples of Belgium jazz, a cult school band and an obscure Chinese stringed instrument, Kingdoms in Colour truly covers the sonic spectrum while retaining the breezy vibes associated with Maribou State. Release Date: 07 September Key Track: ‘Beginner’s Luck’ 09. Robyn – Honey After eight years away from the solo-spotlight, Robyn returns with an album as sweet as its title suggests. Honey is the soundtrack to healing heartbreak on the dancefloor. Beginning with the pining party anthem of ‘Missing U’ through to the euphoria of ‘Ever Again’ – Robyn’s sixth album is a sonic journey highlighting the healing powers of the club. Release Date: 26 October Key Track: ‘Missing U’ 08. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! The New York four piece hit top form with Wide Awake! With the help of maverick producer Danger Mouse, Parquet Courts’ sixth album in eight years is a sign that rock music does not belong on its deathbed, it just needs an injection of fun. No pretences, no frills, Wide Awake! is alive with raw energy and a flamboyancy not commonly found in a guitar band. Release Date: 18 May Key Track: ‘Total Football’ 07. Snail Mail – Lush Our highest ranked debut, Lush is clever, poignant and masterfully moody. 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan addresses the angst, anger and anguish of youth with both poignancy and clarity. Lush is far more than a collection of teenage indie rock anthems though. It is a showcase of what Jordan has to offer – and yet it feels like this is far from her full potential. Release Date: 08 June Key Track: ‘Pristine’ 06. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs The latest album to be released in the top 20, Some Rap Songs, is a beacon of how far hip-hop has come and how much potential it still holds. Earl Sweatshirt, an enigma of sorts, opens up more than ever on this honest and avant-garde third studio album. Release Date: 30 November Key Track: ‘December 24’ 05. Christine and the Queens – Chris It was never going to be easy living up to the groundbreaking pop debut that was Chaleur Humaine but Héloïse Letissier broke any expectations from her debut and set them alight. Like her hair and her stage name, Letissier’s sound was cut back for Chris and then packed with unfiltered attitude and funk. While her debut was a slow burning sensation, Chris is immediate and piping hot. And it packs one hell of a punch. Release Date: 21 September Key Track: ‘Doesn’t Matter’ 04. Shame – Songs of Praise While Shame, as a five piece punk band from London, are nothing new – their sarcasm, wit and self awareness makes them the best punk band we have seen in a long time. Songs of Praise, is rowdy but it is also incredibly intelligent. Unlike the royally approved TV show the title takes its name from, Shame’s debut basks in not being approved by the elite and upper class. It is a modern punk album not afraid to take the piss and we love it. Release Date: 12 January Key Track: ‘Gold Hole’ 03. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence After they released three albums in six months and had a negative rhetoric around them following the departure of controversial member Ameer Vann, you’d have forgiven US group Brockhampton for keeping their heads down this year. Come summer though the collective were tearing up festivals not just state side but also in Europe; most notably Reading and Leeds. The fans wanted more and Brockhampton delivered, producing an album in ten days from the infamous Abbey Road Studios. The product, iridescence, is a mix of Frank Ocean dreamy R&B pop, thunderous DnB production and that distinctive Brockhampton ability to be able to chop and change their sound five times within one track. Their vocals shine brightest here too with Bearface taking a far more prominent role while Joba and Dom show that if anything did ever happen to the group they’d be more than capable solo artists. Release Date: 21 September Key Track: J’OUVERT 02. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer While Janelle Monae has always been flying the flag for nonconformists of society, on Dirty Computer she showed just how to flaunt these differences. As a queer black woman in America she certainly has a lot to say about the U.S. in 2018 on this record, but its not done with scorn or dejection. No, its done with pure style and sass. On the Zoe Kravitz featuring anthem, ‘Screwed’ she laughs in the face of political fire, “We’ll put water in your guns, we’ll do it all for fun”, she sings. It also features the funkiest bassline 2018 ever did hear. And on the patriotic closing track ‘Americans’ she refuses to let patriotism be solely for republicans: “Don’t try to take my country, I will defend my land,” she sings. Sure there’s a lot of associations with her late, close working partner Prince, but this influence should be celebrated not scorned. Dirty Computer is the sound of love conquering hate and then throwing a huge party in the street afterwards. Release Date: 27 April Key Track: ‘Screwed’ (feat. Zoë Kravitz) 01. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance IDLES’ second album, Joy as an Act of Resistance is a record designed to unravel the chaos that was 2018 but also to have a laugh while doing it. It tackles some serious topics but with none of that preachy bullshit. It handles some of 2018’s heaviest subjects with tongue and cheek. Even that old chestnut Brexit is tackled head on with a little chuckle on ‘Great’ as frontman Joe Talbot caws, “Islam didn’t eat your hamster / Change isn’t a crime”. Absurd lyrics like this (including that ‘ten points to Gryffindor’ verse on ‘Gram Rock’ whatever that was) make IDLES a joy to behold. Each track covers its chosen topic with acute attention. From toxic masculinity to immigration, it’s all covered and yet the record amalgamates them into one defining beacon of punk-filled revelry. Joy as an Act of Resistance is a record to return to as the world continues to go up in flames. Release Date: 31 August Key Track: ‘Colossus’ So that’s it. Another year over full of some whopping albums I am sure you agree. With 2019 on the horizon keep your eyes peeled for our ‘Eyes on 2019’ artists coming in the new year. If you enjoyed our albums of 2018 as much as we did check out our Spotify playlist below with the best tracks from each album featured. Let us know what you think of our top 20 albums this year. Spot on or utterly a shambles? Whatever it is you make to our list feel free to get in contact on our Facebook or Twitter.