Updated: Oct 15, 2022
A debut album is the ultimate in first impressions. A band or artist's debut is like a manifesto, it sets out what you can expect from them, their sound and their intentions. When we think of those debuts that have become classics, from Oasis's Definitely Maybe and Patti Smith's Horses to Please Please Me by The Beatles and The Libertines' Up The Bracket, there is always something that makes these records memorable. It could be a stand out song that grabs listeners there and then or something which may not have been well received at the time but has captured a moment in history; either way, an amazing debut will stand the test of time.
With this year's National Album Day turning the spotlight on debut albums, we couldn't resist telling you about our favourites:
Steve: Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
I first heard this album through my mate’s Walkman. I was at school, we had one headphone each during an English lesson. I only managed to listen to about a minute of ‘BRING DA RUCKUS’ before the teacher confiscated it. But it stuck with me.
I bought my (first) copy on cassette from the original Applestump Records in Cwmbran. For the next twelve months I played it to death and told everyone I knew about it. I had never heard anything like it, even though I was listening to a lot of hip-hop at the time. The urgency and energy in every single track, every single lyric is to this day remarkable. I was fortunate enough to see them perform the album in Brixton Academy on what must have been their first UK tour in ’93 or ’94 and they managed to transcend every ounce of enegry from the recording onto the stage.
The album was a statement. A benchmark for the numerous follow-up albums and member solo albums it spawned. Many of these too are formidable offerings, such as GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’, Rae’s ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ and ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ the ensemble’s epic follow-up double LP. But for me nothing ever matched this album. The record is everything you want from a debut - a gang of mates hellbent on changing their current situation for the better through sheer grit and determination.
Dani: Aim - Cold Water Music
To say I love Cold Water Music is an understatement. I own two copies, one original pressing and one repress on lovely blue vinyl. In fact, both copies were bought for me as gifts, which just goes to show how much I bang on about this record to anyone who will listen.
For those who don't know, Aim is Andy Turner, a DJ and producer from sunny Barrow-In-Furness, who, having honed his skills in the clubs of the North West, signed to independent record label Grand Central Records and released his debut, Cold Water Music, in 1999. Along with his own material, Turner has remixed tracks for artists as diverse as The Charlatans, Ian Brown, Lil' Kim and Texas and, after leaving Grand Central in 2005, set up his own label ATIC through which he has released the latest Aim record.
I found out about this album in an unusual way, it was recommended by my mum! She was shopping in Manchester, heard it in a shop in the Northern Quarter, asked the shop assistant what was playing and then hunted down the CD for me (yes, my mother is a legend). From the minute I heard "Sail", I fell in love with the record. Kate Rogers' almost haunting vocals mixed with Aim's trademark downtempo hip hop beats are a perfect match and it was this song that pulled me in. Other stand out tracks for me are Ain't Got Time To Waste, Cold Water Music and Demonique but there isn't a song on the album that I would skip through. It's a record that moves effortlessly through hip hop, electronica and soul, drawing on samples and influences from film scores, classical recordings and little known funk gems and creating a unique sound that I think is completely faultless.
For me, Cold Water Music sums up what National Album Day is all about, it's an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety from start to finish, and a record that really has stood the test of time. Don't take my word for it though, go and give it a listen and judge for yourself.
Amy: Alt-J ∆ - An Awesome Wave
On the 8th of May 2013, I spent £4.99 on my first ever iTunes purchase, Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave became the first album I ever (digitally) owned.
Released in the summer of 2012, Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave went Top 20 in the UK album charts. Initially met with mixed reviews, the album was likened to the sound of Radiohead, Wild Beasts, and James Blake, but to 13-year-old me it was like nothing I’d heard before.
I had recently upgraded my hello kitty CD player to an iPod Touch, replacing my Pop Party CDs with the iTunes Store. Recommended to me by one of my friends at high school, An Awesome Wave quickly became my favourite album. I was initially confused about what I was hearing, the messy guitar, incongruous vocals, and nonsensical lyrics introduced me to a whole new world of musical genres and styles, but however weird and overstuffed it was, I knew that I liked it. I found myself listening to the album at any chance I got, on the bus to school, in the back of class, and during my breaks. I drew triangles in the margin of every one of my school books and even sprawled the lyrics to Breezeblocks across a piece of watercolored A3 for the background of a self-portrait for an end-of-year art project.
Interlude 1 (Ripe and Ruin), Dissolve Me and Hand-Made are my standout tracks of the album, showcasing the nonconformity and brilliance of Alt-J’s sound. The term ‘folkstep’ was invented to describe it, the amalgamation of jazz, folk, and dubstep creating a remarkable debut for an oddball band that couldn’t of anticipated such success.
Since 2012 Alt-J have released 4 equally experimental and intriguing albums, but none have stuck with me like their debut has. It remains an album that I frequently find myself reaching for, a reminder of my young adulthood and the beginning of my ever-evolving music taste.