My Top 20 Debut Albums

I cherish the fact that other people turn me on to music. Friends, strangers, DJ’s, record store employees, everyone has an opinion when it comes to what to listen to. I think it says something about my character that I am able to believe in other people’s opinions and ultimately let them effect what I am going to be listening to. It’s like a music community. If someone recommends a band to me I more often than not will go out and look the band up. If someone, especially strangers, feels so touched by a band that they have the balls to recommend them to a perfect stranger, then it must be worth at least one listen. That is why I take this blog so seriously. I feel like this is my little gift to that music community. My recommendation. For a while there I lost touch. I got too caught up in trying to find the next best thing and it became this overwhelming task that drained all the fun out of writing. I want to get back to what I loved about this blog, recommending albums that mean something to me. It didn’t take long for this blog to turn into every other blog. That needs to stop. Sure, I’ll still write about new bands and albums, but I need to put my focus back on what matters to me. I needed a list. I needed something that would force me to write something longer than a few paragraphs. Something that would make me think. Here I present to you my Favorite 20 Debut Albums. These are all debuts that I personally recommend. Some of them didn’t start a musical revolution, some of them wouldn’t make a Rolling Stones list, but they are my favorites. Enjoy.


20: Deftones – Adrenaline (1995)

The American hard rocker’s first proper album was dynamite. I didn’t get into at the time of its release, but it is my favorite of the Deftones collection and one of the best debut albums to come from the 90’s. Chino’s intelligent poetry is delivered with such a heavy alternative sound that it is hard for one to turn away.


19: The Strokes – Is This It? (2001) (RS #367)

The first gem of the “The” bands, The Strokes put out this post garage punk hit in 2001. This was one album that really got me back into music. It was the fiery guitars and pondering lyrics that roll smoothly throughout the album that really got me hooked. It received plenty of deserved radio play with tracks like “Last Nite”, “Hard to Explain” and “Someday”. The Strokes debut was a sure fire indie hit to start of the millennium. . It was even ranked in Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time list (#367). This band’s career has really taken off since 2001 with a sophomore album that just topped this one and a third highly anticipated album that didn’t score so highly in my book but was still considered a hit.


18: Pete Yorn – Musicforthemorningafter (2001)

Few artists have taken over my stereo like Pete Yorn did in 2002. For almost a year I considered this debut to be my favorite album of all time. Now obviously I never made an official list, and if I did this album would definitely not be at the top, but considering it never left my stereo and it was all I talked about, at the time it only seemed right to give it that title. Pete’s debut hits nearly every emotion on the human emotion spectrum. What makes Music for the Morning After so unique is that there isn’t a single song that isn’t worth listening to. Yorn’s career has blossomed into that of a talented, respected singer songwriter. His sophomore album Day I Forgot really showcased his growth as both a person and a musician.


17: The Beta Band – The 3 EP’s (1998)

Combining all the tracks from their first 3 EP’s, The Beta Band’s properly titled debut 3 EP’s is considered their first studio album. Though the band has been quoted as calling the album “fucking awful”, it has been hailed as one of the best British albums of all time. One of my first reviews was on this album, you can check it out here.


16: The Shins – Oh, Inverted World (2001)

Still reaping in the benefits of Zach Braff’s film “Garden State”, the Portland based Shins have taken off into mainstream stardom after the movie claimed their music has the ability to “change your life”. After 3 albums this debut is the best example of the Shins in their purest form. A simple, sunshine pop album that really delivers.


15: Pearl Jam – Ten (1991)

As my grandfather would say, “If you looked shit up in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Pearl Jam in the right hand column.” Although the Seattle band jumped on the grunge bandwagon, their twelve times platinum debut is hard to argue against. I really didn’t want to add this album to the list. Eddie Vedder is an arrogant, conceited prick and his music hasn’t been the same since Vitalogy in ’94. But you can’t deny that while his band may suck, this album started the 90’s in the right direction. Every now and then I’ll hear “Alive” on the radio and I’ll leave it on the station just because I am lazy. Then after the singing stops and the jamming begins, I remember how much the album meant to me back in the day. This may be low on the list to some of you, but this list is the best debut albums that launched the band in the right direction. And though this album may have been damn near perfect in its day, the band didn’t make the magic last very long, yet they still put music out and that my friends, loses you points in my book.


14: NIN – Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

Did you know that Trent Reznor was a janitor at a studio in Cleveland and when the building was down he would use the recording equipment to record what would turn out to be his magnificent debut Pretty Hate Machine? This dark 3 times platinum debut would turn out to be the first of over 18 albums in NIN’s Halo series. Talk about starting a career on the right foot.


13: G.Love and Special Sauce (1994)

This summer time favorite of mine hasn’t lost its shine for me. I still put this album in and listen to it like it was just released last year.


12: Led Zepplin – I (1969) (RS #29)


11: Elliott Smith- Roman Candle (1994)

This album, made in a friends basement, was never meant to be heard by anyone. Yet here it sits on the brink of the top 10 debut albums. If Elliott were still around, he would be so proud. If you want the real review, check it out here.


10: The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Really picking up the slack of the Art rock movement and carrying it all on their shoulders, this Canadian band really pulled out a masterpiece in their 2004 debut. This list was meant to showcase debuts that have launched a bands career in the right direction. I say you know you’re going in the right direction when your face is on the cover of Time Magazine (deduct points for it being Time Magazine the Canadian version). I doubt Funeral let any of it’s listeners down. Full of organs, accordions, and expressive lyrics, this album, once absorbed, conveys the sorrows of death in an extraordinary way. It took me a while to really get the magic of this band. It didn’t hit me until I received a DVD bootleg in a trade a while back. The Arcade Fire put on such an enchanting show. It is hard to look away when there is so much emotion on stage. That is when I went back to the album and actually gave it the honest listen it deserved. It blew me away. I couldn’t believe I had passed up on the band the first time around. Now, it is an album that I make sure is always near in case I need to “Wake Up”.


9: Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)

This somber debut was a blessing in disguise. When I first picked it up, I half expected it to be a one hit wonder. A friend burned this album for me as soon as he got it because he couldn’t take his headphones off. I was overindulged in Dave Matthews for years and it was time to start branching out again and I liked the single I was hearing on the radio, so I gave it a shot. “Yellow” was all over the radio in a hurry and I half anticipated the album to bomb under my standards. I knew right away I was wrong. It’s eerie, slow paced, and kind of depressing, and I loved every minute of it. From “Shiver” to “Everything’s Not Lost”, this album did more than spark something in me, it sparked something in millions of others around the world. This album won the Best Alternative Album Grammy and The Best British Album from the BRIT Awards. Today, the band is compared to U2 on a daily basis. They have 2 other solid studio albums after Parachutes that are both critically acclaimed and soar in my book. I think Parachutes certainly gave them a nice plateau to start from.


8: Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales (2000)

Looking at all these debut dates, I’m starting to realize that the start of the new millennium was a monumental period of my musical journey. I was certain my list was going to be filled with 90’s bands, but looking at it I am glad I have a diverse selection. This pick, however, could be argued. I am sure it would not be worthy of such a spot on most people’s lists but to me, this album was a significant part of my growing up. I was driving to the Adirondacks to go camping for the weekend with a friend. He only had a few cd’s with him. We were both Dave Matthews buffs so we listened to him for a while and talked about the concerts. Then he popped this in. Our conversation only lasted a few minutes longer before we both shut up and just listened to the sandy guitar and Jack’s poetry. I was blown away. We literally listened to Brushfire Fairytales the entire weekend. When I came home it was all I could think about. When an album takes over your entire thought process for an entire weekend, it definitely has to rank up there. Now, it is a campfire sing along favorite.


7: Ben Harper – Welcome to the Cruel World (1994)

You’ll notice that a lot of these albums were recommended to me from someone else. Ben Harper is one act I discovered for myself. I saw him perform at my very first concert (which ironically was the last HORDE Festival in 1998). I didn’t run out and get his music right away, but I never forgot the name. I never did get into a Harper “phase” either. I can’t explain it. Once I started listening to him I just connected with him so much that I didn’t feel the need to over do it. I listened to him on a regular basis for a long time. All of his albums mean something different to me but his debut was the first one I got. It was stolen in the locker incident freshman year (someone broke into my locker and stole my cd wallet…it’s never been the same since) but I picked it up years later. He had a band on this album, but mostly it is just Harper doing his acoustic folk thing that is so moving. He sings like Martin Luther King with a guitar. Definitely launched Harper in the right direction and personally one of my favorite artists of all time.


6: The Beastie Boys – License to Ill (1986)

This 9 times platinum album started it all. The sampling, the partying, the remixes, the instrumentals, the punk, the hip hop, everything. What these three white boys have done with their careers is nothing less than brilliant. No other album on this list started a livelier, more vigorous career than this one did. If you were alive in the 80’s you’ve heard of the Beastie Boys. Nearly the entire album has had some kind of radio play over their 20 years since it has been released. For me it started my Beastie devotion back in middle school. This is certainly not my favorite album from the band (Paul’s Boutique) but it established their spot on the hip hop world.


5: Rage Against the Machine (1992) (RS#368)

A Guest Review From the Biggest Rage Fan on Earth: Jesse James Jeffers

Furious. Unrelenting. Extremely fucking loud and unapologetic. This self-titled 1992 debut album from a then-burgeoning Social rock powerhouse is in-your-face before you even put it in stereo, with the infamously graphic 1963 photo of a Buddhist monk burning himself to death in protest on the cover. If that isn’t fair warning for what awaits inside the CD case, I can’t think of what would be, given the “Burn, burn” hook in the opener “Bombtrack. The album’s most well-known release, “Killing in the Name,” features the definitive line of the band’s discography when Zack de la Rocha launches into a frenzied chant of “Fuck you, I won’t do what ya tell me.” However, for my money, the album’s claim to this list is firmly established by the tracks “Bullet in the Head” and “Know Your Enemy.” Not only does each of these songs showcase the talents of bassist Tim Commerford and guitarist Tom Morello, respectively, but they are also de la Rocha’s most inspired lyrical deliveries of what has to be one of the most-thoughtful and well-composed debuts in the past 20-plus years. Other hits “Wake Up” and “Freedom” would be top singles off of most albums, yet really are relegated to being gravy on top of a delicious plate of thunderous political rock. New hard rock acts could learn many lessons about genuine anger – and for that matter music – from a debut like this.

Bullet in the Head


4: Weezer (1994) (RS#297)

Ahh yes, Weezer. The first emo kids to pick up guitars and bitch about sex, dungeons and dragons, and lesbians. This album is more than just a good debut. It is holy. I flip through my collection and every time I see it I want to put it in, but I don’t because I feel that the timing is not significant enough. It is by far the best drinking album of our generation. So great in fact, that it has become a drinking tradition right up there with beer goggles and hangovers. Getting drunk just isn’t the same without the “Blue” album. Hearing people sing this album inebriated is home for me. Rivers Cuomo should be the first man credited for making the comic book nerd cool in the 90’s. I mean just look at the band on the album cover. If you had no idea what they sounded like, would you look at those 4 guys and say to yourself “Gee, I bet these fellas make some outstanding music.” Don’t lie, you wouldn’t. His nerdiness has spawned singles such as “The Sweater Song”, “Say it Ain’t So”, and “Buddy Holly”. From start to finish, this album accomplishes so much.


Surf Wax America




3: Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994) (RS#303)

This debut may not have lifted Buckley’s short lived career into stardom, but most singers these days, when asked who their influences are will put Jeff Buckley near the top of their list. His angelic voice can not be disguised. Few debut albums contains as much passion and sentiment as Grace. One listen to this album is all it takes for most people to become Buckley fanatics. This album may not have generated an offspring of classic Buckley albums, but that is only because Jeff’s life was cut short in 1997. Even after his demise, Grace is still selling copies worldwide and continues to gain fans worldwide. For an album that was made 13 years ago by an artist who is no longer with us, that is saying a whole lot. Personally, this album packs so much power that I can hardly contain myself when I listen to it. If I’m in the car with other people I tend to block out all other conversations just so I can hear it and hope to get something new out of it. Buckley is a poet, a romantic, and a hero.



2: Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (1967) (RS#15)

The genius career of one of the greatest guitar players of all time started off with this masterpiece. With a ton of classic singles like “Hey Joe”, “Wind Cries Mary”, “Purple haze”, and “Manic Depression” this album has to make the top 5. Hendrix did so much for rock and roll in the 60’s and 70’s. His solos are some of the tightest stuff you’ll hear. Though “Voodoo Child” is not on this album, I feel like this is as good a time as any to make my argument between the Stevie Ray Vaughn version and Hendrix’s version since this debut inevitably lead to the making of the classic song. Though Stevie Ray’s version may have the better guitar solo, the better version has to go to the man with the original concept. If it weren’t for Hendrix’s mind altered song writing, we would never have to have this debate.

Purple Haze


The Best Debut Album of All Time is…

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) (RS#13)

Debuting in Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable Multimedia event tour, this collaboration between the Velvet Underground and Nico is by far my favorite debut. Talk about starting a musical revolution, The Velvet Underground took the 60’s to where they had never been before. Their description of drug use and sex was unheard of. The climactic and eerie “Heroin” is the best example. Literally depicting a heroin trip, this chaotic masterpiece comes together perfectly. It takes you from the beginning of the hit then slowly builds into a disaster resulting in commotion and chaos. And that is just one song! I purchased this album on a whim and never regretted it. They are one of my favorite bands to this day. Their range of music is astounding. They hit everything from drowning to affectionate to quiet to anger. I doubt the music scene that we are accustomed to today would be anywhere near as crazy as it is if it weren’t for Lou Reed. He had the courage to break apart from the mainstream and say “Here is what I am, and fuck you if you don’t like it” (not a direct quote). The band lead a fulfilling career with many hits and many other classic albums, but none of them have come close to the tell all magic of their debut. With a little help from Andy Warhol, their music became a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately it didn’t happen in their time. It took a while for their music to catch on. It was once said that only a few thousand people bought the album, but every one of those few thousand were inspired to start a band (I would find the direct quote, but I have no idea who said it). Today it is looked at as a masterpiece. An album before its time. Most debuts are lucky to hit the mediocre mark. This one blew away the competition for years to come.



~ by dtags21 on June 17, 2007.

8 Responses to “My Top 20 Debut Albums”

  1. I linked here from my new feature ‘Meanwhile on other blogs…’
    Hoping that it will inspire you to pick up writing again. Great article and a cool list!

  2. Great List! Most of these hit home for me.

  3. I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  4. Where´s Blezch?!
    That’s a Great Debut album..
    Whatever, its your list

  5. Linkin Park hybrid theory deserves a mention.

  6. “Here is what I am, and fuck you if you don’t like it”
    is a quote from Almost famous?:)
    anyway great list.

  7. you obviously dont know shit about good music if you say eddie vedder is an arrogant prick, pearl jam gets better with age.

  8. Great list. But there needs to be room in this list for “The Doors.” (IMO, the #1 best debut.)

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