Just like that, the year is almost over. Time for a little reflection, starting with part one of Clash’s best albums of 2013 countdown. Click the artist names for more related content and longer reviews.
Check the gallery above for relevant album covers.
And the rest:
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A diaspora of African sounds and rhythms penetrated Western pop music like never before this year, and John Wizards landed spectacularly on that money. Their knack for infectious riffs is twinned with an inventive attitude to ecstatically happy electronic soundscapes. Written from experiences in Maputo, Cape Town, Dar Es Salaam, their sunny debut effort was an explosion of imagination that won a deserved wave of praise. Joe Zadeh
Best Bit: The twinkling keys and tender guitar line of ‘Finally/Jet Up’ make for a dreamy first 90 seconds.
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‘MY NAME IS MY NAME’
(G.O.O.D. MUSIC / DEF JAM)
Slinging his perfected brand of cocaine raps over a carefully curated selection of beats courtesy of executive producer Kanye West, Pusha T’s official solo debut was proclaimed by the man himself to be the best rap album of the year. And with such high-grade product throughout the record’s economic 12 cuts, it is difficult to argue. Grant Brydon
Best Bit: Opening the album with the bass-fuelled funeral march of ‘King Push’.
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All those years as Fabric resident, it appears, have paid off. The rocker-turned-electronicist put his debut LP foot forward, taking Drexciyan acid, shoegaze and big beat out for a spin. Minimal in the least clinical way, Dan eschewed both the gimmick and the zeitgeist – but to great, elegant effect. Felicity Martin
Best Bit: That more-addictive-than-Twiglets riff on ‘All I Need’.
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Call it black metal for the mainstream, mutant-rock for the prefix-obsessed, punk processed through industrial noise… Call it whatever you want, but listen to it. ‘Sunbather’ is the greatest multifaceted racket this side of Isis’s classic ‘Oceanic’ LP. The San Francisco band has surely set a new precedent for enveloping heaviness. Mike Diver
Best Bit: All 10 stunning minutes of the grippingly turbulent title-track.
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‘COLD SPRING FAULT LESS YOUTH’
The feverishly anticipated follow-up to ‘Crooks & Lovers’ had Campos and Maker shifting from tracks to songs, with King Krule rearing his fiery head on two out of 11 for a South London bonanza. Stepping outside their comfort zone, the duo recorded their own voices alongside a giant library of sounds: a risk that paid off. Felicity Martin
Best Bit: The detective-programme-cliff-hanger intro into ‘Home Recording’.
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‘THE SHADOW OF HEAVEN’
Within 10 minutes of meeting Jamie Lee (Money’s frontman) back in July, we had established the two things that he feels everything in life boils down to. “Number one,” he begins, “is not wanting to die. Number two is not wanting to be alone. All the things that we cling to or have faith in, whether it’s reality or whether it’s family or your job, it all seems to satisfy or quell some kind of fear about dying or being alone.” This fallibilist disposition of sky-high thinking seeps through MONEY’s long-awaited debut, ‘The Shadow Of Heaven’. Sacred lyrical themes of deism, lust, heartbreak and faith are offset by the band’s majestic instrumentation, particularly the lead guitar of Charlie Cocksedge, who gets almost African with his finger-pickings on ‘So Long’. It all creates an epic amalgamation of dreamy psychedelia, melancholic balladry and atmospheric shoe-gaze. Joe Zadeh
Best Bit: Lee’s lyrical imagery on ‘Bluebell Fields’ makes for a most Technicolor narrative.
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‘IF YOU LEAVE’
Amid the maelstrom of 2013, its continual churn of reunions, retreads and resurgences, the sheer intimacy of Daughter’s debut stuck out like a sore thumb. Sonically soothing yet lyrically daring, ‘If You Leave’ saw the trio arrive with remarkable, almost immaculate confidence – and it’s only their first step. Robin Murray
Best Bit: When ‘Youth’ unfurls like the first leaf of spring. Yep, we went there.
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Jake’s second album is imbued with the expressive soul of his favourite guitar-slinging troubadours, and is matured by his broadening experience as he follows in their footsteps. As bristling Tennessee shuffles clashed with a steely Nottingham resolve, Rick Rubin expertly captured the Malibu sessions to ensure Bugg’s perceptive songwriting shone. Simon Harper
Best Bit: The country respite of apt album closer, ‘Storm Passes Away’.
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Gone is the folk-tinged, atmospheric, lo-fi electro of Hopkins’ previous works, replaced with fizzing and pulses of dark techno that build into euphoric crescendos. There are still the sounds of everyday life – his trademark, also – but this time it’s about grimy beats you can get lost in. A brilliant new direction. Gemma Hampson
Best Bit: Those punchy climaxes that rise out of comfy ambiance and slap you round the face. Always a delightful surprise.
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‘LIFE AFTER DEFO’
We tipped the reclusive Deptford Goth for our Ones To Watch of 2013 back in January. And so the saying goes, it’s always the quiet ones. With powerful juxtapositions of connection and disconnection, hope and despair, life and death, possession and loss throughout, ‘Life After Defo’ is an absolute thesis on pop experimentalism. Joe Zadeh
Best Bit: The celestial synths and fragile vocals of ‘Union’.
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Click HERE for numbers 30-21. The top 20 will be published week commencing December 9th.
Read about Clash’s most disappointing albums of 2013 here.
The current issue of Clash magazine is reet good, with that M.I.A. on the cover.