The way that Clash’s albums of the year list came together was simplicity made complicated: votes from the writing team (staffers and freelancers alike) were counted and counted again until everyone at Clash HQ had a headache. Spread sheets were employed, Post-it notes attached to walls. Some arguments were had. A goat was sacrificed. Several cups of tea were consumed.
In the end, we had a top 40. But, as the result of a (mostly) very democratic process, equally balancing opinions across the contributing voters, naturally there are some ‘missing’ albums – the ones that have an appeal rather more niche than not. Or, albums that are perhaps are just so well known that, for whatever reason, writers simply didn’t rank them highly enough for them to make the top 40. So ubiquitous that appeal has become obscured by success – over exposure on the airwaves and an infinite number of award nominations.
So, ahead of the publishing of Clash’s actual top 10 albums of 2013 – coming to these pages, and those of our magazine, very soon (hey, it's HERE) – allow us a moment to reflect a little on these absent collections, ones that are nevertheless very worthy of a year-end highlighting.
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The 1975, ‘Sex’, from the album ‘The 1975’
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Firstly, let’s address a couple of Clash cover stars. When an act’s on the cover of Clash magazine, chances are that the team is behind it. But that doesn’t always mean that everyone on board is wholly into the act’s most-recent album. So, fans of The 1975 and Beady Eye: nope, neither ‘The 1975’ (review) nor ‘BE’ (review) is making it into our top 10 of 2013. Which doesn’t mean these are bad LPs, just that they didn’t earn enough votes to get into the top 40 equation. Anywhere near it.
Clever sorts amongst Clash’s regular readers can now compare 2013’s cover stars against who’s already appeared in our year-end countdown and draw their own conclusions. Some might even be right.
Sticking to indie fare, words of praise must be posted for both The National’s ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ (review) and Foals’ ‘Holy Fire’ (review). These sets represented their makers’ most commercially viable sounds to date – and they needed to, as both acts have now properly outgrown their roots, becoming festival-headlining propositions rightly reaping the rewards of their most-excellent back catalogues.
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Foals, ‘Late Night’, from the album ‘Holy Fire’
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From the rather more left of field, but certainly striking substantial blows in their assault on mainstream tastes, came Savages and Factory Floor – two British bands channelling enormous energy into their respective debut LPs, ‘Silence Yourself’ (review) and ‘Factory Floor’ (review). Neither quite accumulated love enough to make Clash’s 40, but we really must say: boys, girls, bravo on some tremendous music, right there.
Folk has been under-represented in Clash’s top 40 – so far – and it’s in this piece that we need to spotlight a couple of albums that warrant all of the praise to have come their way. Laura Marling is such a household name that it’s all-too easy to forget just how talented she really is for one so young – it might be that all of the award nods have robbed some of the intimacy from her recordings. But that doesn’t prevent ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ (review) from being, and we quote our own review, “one of the folk albums of the year”.
Somewhat further down the chart-positions spectrum of the folk world is Kathryn Williams, but a cruel shortage of wider public recognition hasn’t damaged the singer’s way with crafting an essential LP. Her 2013 collection, ‘Crown Electric’ (review), very nearly crept into the Clash top 40 – the “amazing form” she’s on clearly touching a fair few Clash scribes.
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Julia Holter, ‘Horns Surrounding Me’, from the album ‘Loud City Song’
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Carving entirely singular artistic furrows in 2013 were Julia Holter and These New Puritans (pictured). The former’s ‘Loud City Song’ (review) lit up the summer, winning a 9/10 review in Clash and storming up the personal top-10s of a few writers (yours truly included). Alas, it did not make strides enough to land on the overall 40. “One of the most spellbinding talents making music today,” commented our reviewer, Gareth James. He’s right, you know.
Puritans, meanwhile, were rather hamstrung in the Clash runnings by the review they received for third LP ‘Field Of Reeds’ (review). Clash’s critic couldn’t pull away from the band’s apparent peers to see how unique the record was on its own terms – and perhaps that opinion seeped into some other staffers, as the album fell some way short of the top 40. It’s an inspirational yet infuriating listen: to some ears the work of genius, while others will take away the impression of a band wilfully butting against convention without fully realising an alternative agenda. Swings and roundabouts, eh? At its best, it is brilliant.
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These New Puritans, ‘Organ Eternal’, from the album ‘Field Of Reeds’
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And the above is, as we’re sure you can imagine, just a small selection of the records that didn’t quite make our top 40. Also missing out: My Bloody Valentine’s comeback LP ‘m b v’; Jessy Lanza’s magical ‘Pull My Hair Back’ (review); Pet Shop Boys’ spirits-reborn set ‘Electric’ (review); Outfit’s splendid debut ‘Performance’ (review); and the successfully broken-through CHVRCHES’ absorbing collection, ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ (review).
We could be here all day listing other great albums of 2013. But let’s not. Just know that your own favourite is special to you and that’s what counts – a list on a website is just a list on a website. Perhaps, through context of placing the known against the not, you’ll read Clash’s top 40 find something amazing that’s new to you, a record that awakens feelings previously slumbering. But if that’s not the case, don’t sweat it. Music isn’t a competition. We’re all winners here.
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Click to our top 10 albums of 2013 and an exclusive interview with the maker of our number one.