The penultimate part of Clash’s countdown of the best albums of 2013, as ranked by our team of strongly opinionated writers.
Click artist names for further content and longer reviews. Check the gallery above for relevant album artwork.
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Dance music’s ephemeral spirit thrives on ghosts and revivals. Yet rarely has there been such a vivid séance of old sounds than Paul Woolford’s ode to hardcore. Seizing the Amen drum break and recalling the essence of Vics, Ford Cosworths, ring roads and natty MCs, ‘Soul Music’ reincarnates some of the most visceral dance music ever made and blesses it with the production punch of 2013. ‘Soul Music’ is a delicious Tardis of rave. Matthew Bennett
Best Bit: The vintage MC sample pleading with the owner of a Ford Fiesta to come move it off the dancefloor.
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The most unlikely top 40 smash of 2013, this third album from the London-based noise duo took their pulsing, grinding, thrusting sound and refined it to the point where every spooked synth rattled the bones harder and each blasted beat threatened to crack the sky. As beautiful as an exploded skull. Mike Diver
Best Bit: Are Fuck Buttons rap producers to be? ‘The Red Wing’ says: maybe.
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‘PALE GREEN GHOSTS’
Everyone’s favourite caramel-toned, former drug addict, heartbroken gay lover returned this year with an unbelievable album, swapping the soft charm of Texans Midlake for Icelandic synths and Sinead O’Connor. The result was a dark, fuzzy, twisted, but beguiling album of lost love and torment… and ‘Glacier’, the song that could break any man. Gemma Hampson
Best Bit: “This pain, it is a glacier moving through you”. Need we say more? Weep.
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TYLER, THE CREATOR
(ODD FUTURE / SONY)
With the controversy of his initial entrance to the scene having long blown over, Tyler, The Creator emerged with his strongest set thus far. ‘Wolf’ takes listeners to Camp Flog Gnaw where they contend with Tyler’s various conflicting personalities as new arrival Wolf, and his bike Slater, battle against bully, Sam, for the heart of his girlfriend (whether she likes it or not), Salem. Grant Brydon
Best Bit: Tyler and Frank Ocean’s dedication to an orange BMX called ‘Slater’.
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Finding inspiration in Chicago’s footwork scene, ‘Vapor City’ saw Machinedrum rev up the tempos. Fusing that jittery, skittering hip-hop sound with British bass culture, this set is an imaginative paean to a dream state. Oh, and it goes off in a rave. Robin Murray
Best Bit: The demented, scattered jungle of ‘Gunshotta’.
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(N.E.E.T. / INTERSCOPE)
The queen of controversy romps back into our lives after her precognition that Google was snooping on us further immortalised her last album, ‘Maya’. ‘Matangi’ sets its sights, however, on Eastern spiritualism, a theme that conjures her most consistent set of bangers since debut ‘Arular’ ruled back in 2005. Welcome to M.I.A. 2.0. Matthew Bennett
Best Bit: M.I.A.’s slick wordplay on her collaboration with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
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NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
‘PUSH THE SKY AWAY’
(BAD SEED LTD)
Sea and sky act as quivering meditative backdrops, over which Cave intones like a salty, glittering-eyed prophet, aided by the near messianic transcendence of The Bad Seeds. That such a distinguished and dazzlingly vital suite of songs has occurred 15 albums into a career is extraordinary. A majestic, melancholic liturgy. Anna Wilson
Best Bit: The bellicose yet beatific, balls-out gospel of ‘Higgs Boson Blues’.
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‘THE NORTH BORDERS’
Having found his sound, Bonobo’s job now is refinement, not revolution. ‘The North Borders’ is soft, soulful and contains all the flexibility of jazz yet with the exactness of technology. Sculpted, rounded yet still daring, it’s the same as before, then, yet somehow better than ever. Robin Murray
Best Bit: When Erykah Badu steps on ‘Heaven For The Sinner’ and awakens our spiritual side.
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‘THE NEXT DAY’
Echoes of a monumental musical past act as small illuminations, familiar signs taking us down unfamiliar roads. There’s simplicity in structure and lyric that belies the near impenetrable denseness of this unexpected record. A contemplation on love and war, fear and redemption, it’s a resolutely contemporary masterwork, effortless in its elegance. Anna Wilson
Best Bit: The haunted world-weariness of the remarkable Scott Walker-like ‘Heat’.
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Take that, religion. Finally, these simians provide definitive proof of evolution. From ickle spotty Yorkshire lads to international rock gods, Arctic Monkeys kick off their indie boots with ‘AM’ through sexy R&B melodies and kick-ass riffs, all the while keeping their clever and quintessential Northern lyricism. Jamie Carson
Best Bit: ‘Arabella’ kicking into a full-on Sabbath-recalling assault.
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Clash’s top 10 albums of 2013 will be published soon – alongside an exclusive interview with the artist responsible for our number one album. And no, we’re not telling. Yet.
Keep up with what’s in Clash magazine – yes, there’s a magazine, in newsagents worth the papers they’re pimping – right here.