Strictly amazing albums…

Clash was born in 2004. To celebrate our 10th anniversary, and imminent 100th issue, we’re counting down the top 100 albums that pretty much everything we do is based on. These are our favourites since we’ve been in the game – and they’re all celebrated players.

Previous entries:
100-91
90-81
80-71
70-61
60-51
50-41

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40
David Bowie – ‘The Next Day’
(2013, ISO)

Bowie comes with baggage. But what elegant and rakish luggage it is. As such it’s near impossible not to compare the songs on this album to his formidable oeuvre. Will it equal his best work? Could anything? Clandestinely constructed, like an electrified alchemist’s elixir, ‘The Next Day’ arrived in spectacular fashion, ostensibly from out of nowhere. This is a contemplative, confident record that only strengthens with further listening: reflective, revitalising and luxuriously refined. Anna Wilson

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39
Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’
(2007, 4AD/Jagjaguwar)

A quiet revolution, born of isolation and bruised by heartbreak: ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ is like every tear a man could spill distilled into sound, which itself is ravaged by a very real fever. This is a purge, an act of catharsis unlike many an album before and after it – stripped-naked in arrangements, open-souled of vocal and still arresting of effect. It’s quite unwittingly proved inspirational to a great many beards-with-guitars since, but Bon Iver’s debut is the model that such spin-offs will never improve upon, all attempts to resulting in, at best, rather hollow echoes of the alluring substance across these nine, surface-fractured songs. Mike Diver

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38
Kanye West – ‘Yeezus’
(2013, Roc-A-Fella)

From the first abrasive, raw strokes of 'On Sight' (from Phuture’s seminal ‘Acid Tracks’), it was clear that this wasn’t gonna be no ‘Gold Digger’-style set. Instead, ‘Yeezus’ is an album that stitches together different musical extremities – acid house to effervescent boom-bap to deranged dancehall to sampling Beenie Man, Nina Simone and Bollywood hits. The list goes on and on – and West’s fresher-than-ever clique of credits on this album is numerous and star-studded. With all this in mind, it’s also a heavily industrial, sweet ‘n’ sour journey – critiquing the attitudes of modern America as well as caricaturing typical rap bravado. Or is it a caricature? Kanye’s sharply self-aware, even of his own inconsistencies. But you see: there’s leaders, and then there’s followers. All hail ‘Yeezus’, Christ. Felicity Martin

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37
alt-j – ‘An Awesome Wave’
(2012, Infectious)

Every ounce of work to surface from this Leeds act prior to this debut album struck entirely different tones, making ‘An Awesome Wave’ quite the unpredictable beast. As a former Ones To Watch, Clash followed them closely and come to this conclusion: the only thing that can ever be guaranteed with alt-j is variation. Many felt The xx’s eponymous LP to be too complete and rounded to ever be a debut, and alt-j’s is similarly composed. They’re young, yet somehow void of naivety. Their music’s vibrant, yet artistically matured. Even the naff name slowly grows on you. Joe Zadeh

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36
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
(2009, XL)

It’s easy now to say that ‘Primary Colours’ saved The Horrors from obscurity. Easy, but wrong. Debut album ‘Strange House’ was a fairly decent garage punk record, but nothing could prepare fans for the band’s next step. Fusing Krautrock with shoegaze, electronics with immensely refined songwriting, ‘Primary Colours’ gave British guitar music new impetus, a fresh template. Returning to ‘Primary Colours’ shorn of expectation, what emerges is a band rejoicing in their own craft, freed from preconceptions and revelling in creativity. Robin Murray

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35
Lorde – ‘Pure Heroine’
(2013, Lava)

An unlikely breakout from a land that many a thick-skulled pleb in the Northern Hemisphere still thinks is overrun with filthy Hobbits, Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ is one of those albums that snobbish, rockist dorks can easily turn their hairy noses up at. Not “real music”. Not “authentic”, whatever the hell that means when you’re wearing a Jake Bugg T-shirt and telling me how great it was when “singers wrote their own songs”. Nice try, granddad. This exquisitely delicate, finely detailed, and alluringly melancholic debut album is penned entirely by Lorde and her producer Joel Little. Sisters be doing it for themselves, y’dig? I can still play this all day, any day, and feel its emotional weight – masked though it can initially seem by the feather-light production (in a manner comparable to ‘xx’). I’ve never been a teenage girl, but experiences like this album, and playing through a game like The Last Of Us: Left Behind, suggest: it sure as shit ain’t all pretty posies and sparkly rainbows. Mike Diver

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34
The National – ‘High Violet’
(2010, 4AD)

Strangely, ‘High Violet’ didn’t fare so well on release with Clash’s elected reviewer – a 6/10 score sells this career high ridiculously short. The result of a career spent on long tours and putting out moderately successful LPs to a select crowd, ‘High Violet’ saw its Brooklyn-based makers take an overdue step into the spotlight. Lyrically and instrumentally powerful, songs haunting and themselves spooked by what’s moving in the shadows around them, nothing here isn’t wholly engaging, from the first listen to the hundredth. For many of this (now massive) band’s admirers, it’s ‘High Violet’, rather than ‘Boxer’ or ‘Alligator’, which marked the moment The National just made sense. Mike Diver

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33
Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Doris’
(2013, Columbia)

It’s uncommon to hear a rapper on a major label really be able to make the record they want to make. But this was precisely the case when Earl Sweatshirt came to release his official debut. ‘Doris’ is uncompromising: full of moody experimental production and Earl’s beyond-his-years monologues, with not a radio single attempt in sight. Grant Brydon

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32
Battles – ‘Mirrored’
(2007, Warp)

On paper it’s entirely preposterous. Free jazz-influenced, motoric-paced math-rock, furious percussion and syncopated synths: a smorgasbord of musical magpie-ism, which in real-life execution is simply dazzling. Incorporating all of those genres is no easy feat, but the core to the beauty of these songs is the fascinating structural work and time signature wizardry displayed by a musical collective stretched tighter than a Botox-ed face. ‘Mirrored’ is metallic, moreish and head-scratchingly perfect.

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31
King Krule – ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’
(2013, XL)

British music fans should gaze upon King Krule with great pride. Under immense expectation, he has managed to become the product of his far-flung influences, rather than a pastiche of any. And that is a new sound in itself. Joe Zadeh

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Previous entries:
100-91
90-81
80-71
70-61
60-51
50-41

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