Trying to choose your favourite debut album is no easy feat. We put our writers to the test to see what pieces of nostalgia and gems from the past they could unearth. Here's a handful of our favourite first LPs from some of the best in the business.
Name: Michael Petritsch
Album: Coheed and Cambria – The Second Stage Turbine Blade
New York progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria, better known for their expansive array of concept albums and accompanying comic books, got their start with their 2002 debut The Second Stage Turbine Blade released through Equal Vision Records. For me, it’s not only one of my favourite debuts, but also one of my all-time favourite albums ever written. Largely produced from the demo stems the band recorded themselves, the entire record is seeping with a vulnerable rawness and the no-holds-barred passion of a young band trying to prove themselves to the world.
It has such a unique, almost post-hardcore sound, but even in those early days the band possessed a mature approach to songwriting and storytelling that usually takes a few full-length releases to develop. You can hear so much of what influenced their music in their writing and approach, while simultaneously presenting a diverse and completely Coheed sound right across the ten tracks that comprise the album. I couldn’t choose a favourite song – they’re all incredible in their own respect and fit together so well as a whole.
Name: Eddy Lim
Album: Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Sprained Ankle is a melancholy collection of intimate confessionals; nine deceptively heavy tracks that echo dualities of hope or despair, peace or chaos, condemnation or redemption. Baker’s ragged vocals entwine perfectly with her minimalistic guitar work on the record, allowing her heartfelt and often self-deprecating lyricism to take centre stage. Themes of substance abuse, heartbreak and religious tug-of-wars form the skeleton of Sprained Ankle, and provide the listener with an extremely visceral view of Baker’s past and present. ‘Rejoice’, one of Sprained Ankle’s standout tracks, hones in on her constant dissension with God and Christianity, and builds up in intensity all the way to its climax, with Baker approaching a near painful howl.
While Baker never intended these songs to be heard by anyone but her closest friends, she was eventually convinced to independently upload them to Bandcamp. Her ‘old soul’ lyricism wormed its way into the hearts of many across the internet, and her name exploded across social media over the span of a few weeks. It was only a matter of time before she secured a deal with 6131 Records to release Sprained Ankle officially, breaking hearts and crushing souls worldwide.
Name: Will Brewster
Album: The Strokes – Is This It
There’s way too many debut albums that are too blessed to be part of this planet, and it hurts my heart deeply to snub my nose at The College Dropout (sorry, Kanye), but it really doesn’t get any better than The Strokes’ 2001 debut Is This It. I’m a huge sucker for young people making a big splash in the music industry, and nothing epitomises that better than this record. Is This It depicts youthful exuberance like it’s rarely been captured before. From Nick Valensi’s blistering guitar solo on ‘The Modern Age’ to the undisputable swagger of Albert Hammond Jr.’s rhythmic stabs on ‘Someday’, there are way too many classic guitar moments on this album to list – it’s an absolute cornerstone for indie guitar.
I also love the intentionally rough production value across the album, especially Fab’s way-too-compressed drums and Julian Casablancas’ practice amp vocals, and don’t even get me started on Nikolai Fraiture’s opening bass line on the title track. I gush way too hard about this album, but its impact can’t be denied – any debut album that’s big enough to make radio stations stop caring about nu-metal is good enough for me.
Name: Nicholas Simonsen
Album: The Mars Volta – De-Loused In the Comatorium
It’s simple, really. The Mars Volta’s debut record is just utterly perfect. From the opening swells of ‘Son Et Lumiere’ to the final ring out of ‘Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt’, it is a mesmerizing, dynamic and simply astounding listen.
The record has everything. Huge, hooky choruses that get stuck in your head, crazy guitar acrobatics and one of the best (if not the best) drum performances of the last 20 years. Huge kudos to Jon Theodore for taking some of the most spaz drum parts in creation and making them sound like the easiest shit around. God knows how many hours I spent in high school air drumming to this record.
The best thing about De-Loused? It’s 15 years old and still sounds fresh and exciting, a feat hugely due to the dream team behind it. On top of the full time members of TMV, you have both John Frusciante and Flea contributing parts, all-star producer Rick Rubin overseeing proceedings, and utter legend Rich Costey mixing the record. The absolute dream.
I can’t think of another debut record that has well and truly knocked me off my feet quite like this one has. It’s a mainstay for whenever I need musical inspiration.
Name: Jessica Over
Album: Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
When you look at debut albums and try to choose a favourite, you find out pretty quickly that it’s an impossible task. Some of the world’s biggest bands made a huge impact with their first full-length record (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Guns N’ Roses to name a few), with a number of groups creating such comprehensive pieces of art that they continue their influence long after the band itself has faded away.
Everyone has their preference, and I cant go past Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. The way this album sets up the trajectory of the band’s career is remarkable, giving them the perfect launching pad to move from raucous indie rock to the more classic rock ‘n roll of AM, through to the jazz-like musings of their latest divisive album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Their first record hasn’t dated over 12 years, and remains a cornerstone of indie rock. It’s music that captures your attention – a stark contrast to the muzak tendencies of the new record – and isn’t going to be forgotten any time soon.
Next up: Mixdown's favourite music documentaries.
Image via Colin Lane.