The Debut Album Project: February (“One Album Wonders”)

Debut Album Project

February found our debut album focus shifting toward a surprisingly-common phenomenon: the “one album wonder.” Over the course of the month, we turned our attention to twenty-eight such records – some iconic and some relative obscurities. While several of the artists represented here appeared on albums by other groups, these specific releases were all one-offs, in the sense that they were lone studio LPs from their respective projects (excluding compilations, singles/EPs, live albums, and archival/posthumous releases).

There’s a certain frustration that one may be tempted to approach a “one album wonder” with. After all, some of these records are masterpieces, and the fact that they were never followed up inevitably leaves us wishing for more. However, I’ve tried to approach revisiting these records with more of a “glass half-full” perspective this month. The mere existence of many of these albums is little short of miraculous: a product of the stars aligning just right for a brief moment, in order to document something truly special before it vanished. Besides, after having spent last summer documenting the history of American garage rock – a genre in which a great number of groups only ever captured a single song on tape – a full LP can look like a veritable treasure trove in comparison.

So, take a stroll through our revisitation of these “one album wonders.” While you’re at it, let us know which ones we missed in the comments; vote for your five favorites in our poll; and give a follow to our Facebook and Instagram pages to see what records we highlight in March, as we turn our attention to debuts by artists from the United Kingdom.

February 1 (#32)


Black Monk Time


Rating: 9.3

What We Said: “One of the most anachronistic records in the rock canon, Black Monk Time is a post-punk album, recorded over a decade before the supposed birth of punk… When a band committing to dressing in monk’s robes and shaving their hair into tonsures is at best the third or fourth most interesting thing about them, you know you’re in for something memorable.”

February 2 (#33)




Rating: 8.8

What We Said: “Newcomers are likely to take immediate note of the rough edges: no-frills production, copious fuzz, and relaxed performances. However, these elements all contribute greatly to the homespun charm that lies at the core of Africa. Whether on the more pop-oriented tracks on the record’s first side, or on the more exploratory second half, Africa is an inviting and rewarding listen.”

February 3 (#34)

The La’s

The La’s


Rating: 9.0

What We Said: “Drawing from the Merseybeat sound that had defined their hometown thirty years prior, the Liverpool group offered far more than just one splendid track on The La’s: the jagged “I Can’t Sleep,” wistful “Timeless Melody,” and epic “Looking Glass” all stand as noteworthy highlights. But yeah, “There She Goes” still hovers over everything else on the track list: a celestial piece of jangle pop, and one of the rare recordings that has truly earned its pop culture ubiquity.”

February 4 (#35)

Joe Meek & The Blue Men

I Hear a New World


Rating: 8.6

What We Said: “Though it wasn’t released in its entirety until decades after his death, Joe Meek’s lone solo record is a classic example of space-age pop; experimental yet tuneful, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the brilliant-but-troubled mind of one of pop music’s true visionaries.”

February 5 (#36)

The Lollipop Shoppe

Just Color


Rating: 8.6

What We Said: “The Lollipop Shoppe seem hellbent on quickly disassociating themselves from any perceived bubblegum image that their name might have entailed; opening with the thrillingly punk-predicting “You Must Be a Witch” and harrowing “Underground Railroad.” Just Color lives on as a cult favorite, and the springboard to what would become a fascinating career for Fred Cole. Recently lovingly reissued by Mississippi Records, it’s just waiting to be rediscovered.”

February 6 (#37)

The Ronettes

Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes


Rating: 9.6

What We Said: “The Ronettes’ first, and only, album is frequently hailed as the greatest of all “girl group” records, but needless qualifiers aside, it’s nothing short of a pop masterpiece – one with dark undercurrents lurking just beneath its instantly-lovable melodies and arrangements.”

February 7 (#38)

Relatively Clean Rivers

Relatively Clean Rivers


Rating: 8.4

What We Said: “…intriguingly, the album sounds like a harbinger of things to come on the American indie rock scene. Chances are slim to non-existent that a young Ira Kaplan, or the Kirkwood brothers heard this thing in the seventies or eighties, but damned if Relatively Clean Rivers doesn’t sound eerily similar to the more relaxed moments of eighties-era Yo La Tengo or Meat Puppets.”

February 8 (#39)

The Creation

We Are Paintermen


Rating: 8.6

What We Said: “…thrashes its way across a dozen tracks, defining the freakbeat sound of the UK garage rock scene in the process. Paintermen keeps the VU meter pushed to the red throughout its run-time, and is all the better for it. It’s probably too well-known to be a ‘lost classic,’ but it’s something of a classic nonetheless.”

February 9 (#40)

The Caravelles

You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry


Rating: 8.2

What We Said: “Released just prior to the British Invasion, the lone album from London’s Caravelles sounds like something airlifted from an earlier era; and yet, it also seems to presage the dream pop stylings of a much later time.”

February 10 (#41)

Baby Huey

The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend


Rating: 8.7

What We Said: “As a posthumous release, there’s an unfinished sense to The Living Legend. For an album that seems primed to present a vocalist, the presence of three instrumental tracks suggests that this was not the intended finished product. But man, what a presence Baby Huey is… You may come away feeling a slight sense of disjointedness, but The Living Legend is certain to leave you impressed, and satisfied.”

February 11 (#42)

The United States of America

The United States of America


Rating: 9.3

What We Said: “Where does one begin a conversation about this particular “one album wonder”: the fact that it was a rock album made by a group of musicians who had little-to-no background in rock?; that it was largely the work of a communist sympathizer?; the fact that it sold next to nothing, was heard by few, but still manages to sound eerily prescient? There’s an endless well of intrigue here, but once you get past all of that, The United States of America simply stands as a fucking great album.”

February 12 (#43)

The Rising Storm

Calm Before…


Rating: 9.1

What We Said: “In a story that’s almost too good to be true, a group of high schoolers enter a Massachusetts studio in 1967, and record an absolute gem that would – decades later – become the holy grail amongst garage rock collectors.”

February 13 (#44)

Eden Ahbez

Eden’s Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle


Rating: 7.7

What We Said: “At its best, exotica is exquisite mood music, and this LP often lives up to the genre’s peak moments. You probably won’t be freaked out by it, but chances are you’ll enjoy your trip to Eden’s Island.”

February 14 (#45)

The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers


Rating: 9.5

What We Said: “…that deadpan exterior is only razor thin, as the heart of these nine tracks is immediately revealed upon first listen. Jonathan Richman waxes romantic about the old world, the modern world, Massachusetts, his would-be girlfriend, and the apparent height of ‘cool’ – the decidedly non-asshole Pablo Picasso. All the while, his vulnerabilities are buttressed by the chugging propulsion of his fellow Modern Lovers.”

February 15 (#46)

The Millennium



Rating: 9.2

What We Said: “Warm, affable, and rarely less than utterly charming, these fourteen tracks skew far closer to the realm of sunshine pop than psychedelia. But that approachability and sincerity is a big part of what makes Begin such a special record. There’s little of the dark undercurrent present in most other 1968 classics, but there’s something genuinely refreshing about the album’s clean production, enveloping melodies, and general positivity.”

February 16 (#47)

Jackson C. Frank

Jackson C. Frank


Rating: 9.4

What We Said: “…sparse, heartbreaking, and lovely. Featuring just Frank’s vocals and guitar, the songs range from morose blues to wistful folk to poignant topical material. While he’s an utterly compelling performer, Frank’s songwriting is what leaves the most lasting impression. Nine of these ten tracks are originals, and the range of emotions that they manage to convey is little short of stunning.”

February 17 (#48)

Count Five

Psychotic Reaction


Rating: 7.7

What We Said: “Nothing else here quite matches “Psychotic Reaction” – though “Double-Decker Bus” would’ve been a career highlight for many decent garage groups – but that track’s energy is maintained throughout. And impressively, aside from a pair of Who covers, every song here is an original composition.”

February 18 (#49)

The Shaggs

Philosophy of the World


Rating: 7.7

What We Said: “The first time you listen to Philosophy of the World, it’s a challenge. And it’s confusing. You find yourself wondering: Are they jazz musicians? Are they performance artists? Is this proto no-wave? Prehistoric math-rock? Am I too dumb for this music, or is it too dumb for me? The good news is, the answer to that two-parter at the end is ‘no.'”

February 19 (#50)

Sex Pistols

Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols


Rating: 9.3

What We Said: “This thing arrived in the era of arena rock, and yeah, even though the music press suggested that the punks were there to tear down the existing structure, here at least, they merely climbed aboard the scaffolding to broadcast their middle fingers to a wider crowd.”

February 20 (#51)

Young Marble Giants

Colossal Youth


Rating: 9.2

What We Said: “At first glance, it may seem like there is little about Colossal Youth that could haunt you, but truly live inside of the vibe of this record for its forty minutes, and I promise, it’ll stay with you much longer.”

February 21 (#52)

Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club


Rating: 8.9

What We Said: “…as inviting a record as you’re ever likely to encounter. Its engaging melodies, impressive musicianship, and exceedingly warm production help it to transcend any language barrier that it might carry for those unfamiliar with son cubano/bolero music.”

February 22 (#53)

The Crystals

He’s a Rebel (Twist Uptown)


Rating: 8.3

What We Said: “a joy, through and through – even if Darlene Love and The Blossoms are actually singing on two of the album’s best tracks. There’s little here that could be considered ‘lesser,’ and when it’s good, it’s outstanding.”

February 23 (#54)

Dennis Wilson

Pacific Ocean Blue


Rating: 8.2

What We Said: “Take the triumphant opener, “River Song,” in comparison with the druggier tracks that largely make up the remainder of the A-side. The sleazy L.A. vibe that permeates through these songs carries a gritty, hard won authenticity that affirms the rough portrait on the record sleeve.”

February 24 (#55)

The Baroques

The Baroques


Rating: 8.7

What We Said: “It gets a little goofy in places, but that playful nature helps to set The Baroques apart from some of their overly serious contemporaries. It also works to validate/augment the unique instrumental arrangements and varied song structures that feature throughout.”

February 25 (#56)




Rating: 8.7

What We Said: “Recorded in mid-1967, but held for release until early 1968, Tomorrow is very much a “guitar first” brand of psychedelia – unsurprising, as it features a pre-Yes Steve Howe. Still, there’s rhythmic heft, lush sounds, and forward-thinking production featured throughout these eleven tracks.”

February 26 (#57)

Alexander “Skip” Spence



Rating: 8.9

What We Said: “For a record with such an intriguing/legendary backstory, Oar is musically quite unassuming. It’s not the psychedelic album that is generally promised (at least not what one would typically expect as ‘psych’), but rather, a stirring display of isolation from a once-famously-extroverted figure.”

February 27 (#58)




Rating: 9.8

What We Said: “A textbook example of an album that is far more than the sum of its parts – and really, those parts are all pretty damn great – Madvillainy is one of those works that impresses on early listens, but doesn’t exactly reveal itself as a masterstroke until it’s been processed.”

February 28 (#59)

Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


Rating: 10.0

What We Said: “…the most obvious historical reference point for Miseducation is Stevie Wonder’s own magnum opus, Songs in the Key of Life. Like that epic, Miseducation aims to be both immersive and (in its own way) all encompassing. And like that record, Miseducation creates a world within its songs: one that can’t be contained within the meager confines of a single disc.”


  • Matt Ryan

    Matt Ryan founded Strange Currencies Music in January 2020, and remains the site's editor-in-chief. The creator of the "A Century of Song" project and co-host of the "Strange Currencies Podcast," Matt enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has a particular affinity for 60s pop, 90s indie rock, and post-bop jazz. He is an avid collector of vinyl, and a multi-instrumentalist who has played/recorded with several different bands and projects.

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