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Debut Albums of the Year

Music, Year-End | By The Top 13 on November 30, 2009

As the year has wound down, we've been considering what albums might make our year-end list of 2009's best. We found that there were many debut albums contending for spots on our final list, so we decided to also honor the year's best rookie artists and count down The Top 13 Debut Albums of the Year. The resulting list is certainly heavy on indie rock, though it features a wide range of sub-genres, including electronic, noise rock, Afro-pop, as well as a few straight-ahead rock and classic alternative albums.

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Girls - Album

1

Girls - Album

By now, much has been written about the story of Girls’ lead singer, Christopher Owens, who was born into the Children of God cult, only to get out as a teenager, move to San Francisco, form Girls, and record Album while consuming massive quantities of pills. Put all that aside and listen to this album. Although infused with noise rock, punk, and psychadelia, this is, at bottom, a pop album. As The New York Times opined: “Album is one of the year’s most bracing pop releases, and one of the best, a devastatingly fresh reframing of the pop songbook.”

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

2

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

With Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, and Queens of the Stone Age singer and guitarist Josh Homme comprising the band, it's no surprise that the debut from Them Crooked Vultures was one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year. The self-titled album doesn't disappoint. Although it sounds more like a Queens of the Stone Age release than anything Nirvana or Zeppelin ever put out, Jones and Grohl have certainly raised the bar for musicianship in a Homme project.

Fever Ray - Fever Ray

3

Fever Ray - Fever Ray

We've heard Karen Dreijer Andersson before - as one half of the electronic duo The Knife, which she formed with her brother, Olof Dreijer, and as the lead singer and guitarist of traditional alt-rock band Honey Is Cool. But unlike Andersson's work in those other two projects, she is the undisputed soul of Fever Ray. The songs on this synthy self-titled album sound isolated and moody, and recall the palpable sadness of Portishead's Dummy. As Allmusic noted: "With almost tangible textures and a striking mood of isolation and singularity, Fever Ray is a truly strange but riveting album."

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

4

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

With Post-Nothing, this Vancouver duo followed up two well-received EPs with its first full-length album. Long-listed for the prestigious Canadian Polaris Music Prize, this album combined first-rate post-punk noise and garage rock in a fury of hazy guitars and tag team vocals. The lyrics are simple – mostly about girls and getting wasted – but they more than suffice to supplement the barrage of sound created by only drums and the guitar. Prefix Magazine opined: "Filled with bounce, bite and surprising cohesion, Post-Nothing is a deceptive little piece that is as much fun as it is subversive."

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

5

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

Pavement, Built to Spill, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and Modest Mouse are just a few of the bands with songs that tracks off Cymbals Eat Guitars' debut album have been compared to by the music press. The comparisons are apt, although we think this Staten Island-based band most closely resembles early Pavement. Barely into their 20s, the members of Cymbals Eat Guitars show some serious confidence for a band so young, creating something truly original despite the obvious influences of many of indie rock's most revered forefathers.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Self-Titled

6

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Self-Titled

With a warm critical reception for its self-titled full-length debut, New York-based indie pop quartet The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is another band on the Top 13 that has drawn some fairly weighty comparisons early in its career. The music press has compared Pains to bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, the Smith, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. And edgy pop songs such as "Young Adult Friction" validate the lofty comparisons. As Pitchfork explained: "The Pains of Being Pure at Heart simply made a slyly confident debut that mixes sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad bastard mopery..."

Beak> - Beak>

7

Beak> - Beak>

Consistent with the band's "very strict guidelines governing the recording and writing process," all of the songs on Beak>'s debut self-titled album were written and recorded live with no overdubs or repairs over a twelve-day period. Beak> is the side project of Portishead producer/instrumentalist Geoff Barrow, which makes the speed in which its debut album was recorded all the more astonishing, considering Portishead's notoriously meticulous processes. The result is a fantastic, mostly instrumental album that, while retaining some of the trip hop sensibilities for which Portishead is known, is anti-pop and entirely unique.

Rain Machine - Rain Machine

8

Rain Machine - Rain Machine

Kyp Malone is best known as one of the guitarists and vocalists behind TV on the Radio. But this self-titled album from Rain Machine marks Malone's solo debut, and he plays virtually all the instruments and handles the vocals. The result is an expansive pastiche of styles, ranging from funk to bluegrass to jazz to straight indie rock. Sputnik Music commented: "Rain Machine is a fantastic record with enough elements to please everyone. Kyp Malone hit just the right note with his solo project, and it culminates in one of the better releases of 2009."

Obits - I Blame You

9

Obits - I Blame You

Brooklyn-based Obits are another band on this list that, while releasing its first album under its current moniker, is no stranger to indie music fans. Guitarist and lead singer Rick Froberg was a member of several previous bands, most notably Hot Snakes, and his two bandmates were in Edsel and Shortstack, respectively. Perhaps because of that history it's no surprise that I Blame You isn't a groundbreaking or highly original album. It is, however, an extremely solid garage rock album that is fairly reminiscent of The Strokes' early work.

Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellery

10

Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellery

Produced by avant-garde British electronic musician Matthew Herbert, this is the debut album from the band led by London-based, classically trained multi-instrumentalist Micachu (Mica Levi). Although Levi classifies her music as "pop," Jewellery really can't be labeled any particular genre and doesn't really fit the pop mold, as it lacks some of the hallmarks of pop music (like infectious hooks). Instead, it's an ambitious and fun experimental album that features Levi's off-kilter vocals and a wide array of unorthodox instrumentation.

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa

11

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa

The Very Best is a collaboration between Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and British production duo Radioclit that first attacted attention when it released a mixtape online that reworked songs by Vampire Weekend, M.I.A., and other indie darlings. On Warm Heart of Africa, the band’s first proper studio album, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and M.I.A. are again featured, though this time as guest vocalists. The Guardian raved: "[T]his album defies all preconceptions and never settles into a genre that you could name and locate on the shelves or download menus. . . . The more I listen, the better it gets."

The xx - XX

12

The xx - XX

The xx might be this year's buzziest band, and, as a result, is already dealing with the inevitable backlash that comes with being a darling of the music blogs. The three members of this British band met in high school and are barely 20-years-old (a fourth member left the band earlier this month), but their inexperience is belied by the supreme confidence that permeates their self-produced debut album. XX taps into a wide variety of influences from trip hop to R&B to alt-rock, which provide a perfect backdrop for the moody duets of the band's two singers. The result is a soulful, dreamy album that gets better every time you play it.

Bad Lieutenant - Never Cry Another Tear

13

Bad Lieutenant - Never Cry Another Tear

Bad Lieutenant – named for the classic Abel Ferrara film starring Harvey Keitel – was formed by guitarist Bernard Sumner when it became clear that his old band, New Order, wasn't going to be recording new music anytime soon. Sumner chose to form this new band, which was aided in the studio by Blur bassist Alex James and New Order drummer Stephen Morris. This self-titled album doesn’t stray all that far from the classic New Order formula, but it should more than satisfy fans of that band's work. Allmusic wrote: "Of course, new bands have lower expectations than established bands, and while virtually every listener will contrast Never Cry Another Tear with New Order's best work, it has the sweep and grandeur of the group's classic moments."

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Comments Leave a comment

jasun 

It is hard to take a list that does not include Adam Lambert's fantastical debut "For Your Entertainment" seriously.

8:09 AM   Nov 30, 2009

TheTop13 

It was tough to leave off, but rest assured it received due consideration.

8:17 AM   Nov 30, 2009

stillathreat ★★

Not a bad list, but the Bad Lieutenant album is awful.

10:01 AM   Nov 30, 2009

jasun 

false.

10:54 AM   Nov 30, 2009

H8TVOTR 

"Super bands" formed of washed up old dudes shouldn't qualify and can't possibly be the second (or 13th) best debut album of the year. You could have replaced those grandads with any of the following:

The Memory Tapes
The Emmy the Greats
The Big Pinks
The Passion Pits
The Cold Caves
The CFCFs
The Drums (if EPs count)
Washed Out (ditto)
The Rural Alberta Advantage

11:45 AM   Nov 30, 2009

H8TVOTR 

Top 3 Supergroups of 2009: (1) The Monsters of Folks, (2) The Bad Leutenants, (3) The Crooked Vultures.

1:35 PM   Nov 30, 2009

jasun 

The Passion Pits are the awful.

3:01 PM   Nov 30, 2009

PulpAffliction ★★

The Girls album is mediocre and the Them Crooked Vultures album is awful.

Micachu deserves to be much higher.

12:01 PM   Nov 30, 2009

ryecatcher 

Girls? Girls? Apart from 2 or 3 tracks, the album is a little flat and repetitive, it is probably the most derivative album on the list. The xx, should be higher in the list, and where are Florence & The Machine & The Invisible?

12:59 PM   Nov 30, 2009

oshoney 

ugh, Girls should not be #1.

1:00 PM   Nov 30, 2009

brian 

What should be? I think the Girls album is pretty awesome, but think any of the top 5 could have been first.

2:33 PM   Nov 30, 2009

jason ★★

Love the Girls album. Only 2 or 3 standouts but every song is good. The XX, by comparison, is an album where every song sounds the same. Japandroids is also totally rad and woulda been a good #1.

2:03 PM   Nov 30, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

Them Crooked Vultures is awesome. Obits might be my fave on this list though. Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The xx are terrible.

2:14 PM   Nov 30, 2009

tloveisready ★★

missing out on Band of Skulls for sure

7:56 PM   Nov 30, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Y'all can't possibly overlook Dan Auerbach's solo debut either. Bigtime album.

8:01 PM   Nov 30, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Others missing from this list are Alberta Cross, Mumford & Sons, and Sarah Jarosz. Not sure if Black Joe Lewis' album is elligible or not, but it's awesome either way.

8:12 PM   Nov 30, 2009

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