The Debut Album Project: June (“The New Americana”)

Debut Album Project

June found us turning our focus to America: specifically in an attempt to broaden the musical definition of the term Americana. For far too long, Americana has merely been a stand-in term for a very narrow brand of music: typically that which encompasses ‘traditional’ themes, and is performed (mostly) by white men on acoustic instruments. And while there’s still some of that to be found here, the idea was to find other examples of music that is capable of reflecting quintessentially American themes and settings.

And it seems that debut albums are a particularly fertile ground for these examples. After all, debuts are typically the records in which their creators are most influenced by — and most in tune with — the settings that they know most intimately. Call them ‘honest’ or ‘authentic’ if you must, but these are the albums that tend to sound — and feel — the most like home.

Instead of pulling brief excerpts from our daily mini-reviews, this month we’re specifically highlighting the settings that these thirty records evoke. We’ll be shifting our emphasis to a new theme in July. To see those picks in real-time — and to read our past and future mini-reviews in full — give our Instagram and Facebook pages a follow.


June 1 (#152)

Modest Mouse

This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About

(1996)

Rating: 8.9

Setting: A mostly abandoned highway; somewhere in the ‘lonesome crowded west.


June 2 (#153)

Real Estate

Real Estate

(2009)

Rating: 8.1

Setting: A tiny beach town along the Eastern Seaboard, on the last few days of summer.


June 3 (#154)

Elizabeth Cotten

Folksongs and Instrumentals With Guitar

(1958)

Rating: 9.3

Setting: The creaky front porch of a modest home in the Appalachian foothills.


June 4 (#155)

Calexico

Spoke

(1997)

Rating: 7.8

Setting: A small border town at nightfall.


June 5 (#156)

Nas

Illmatic

(1994)

Rating: 9.8

Setting: A hot summer day in the Queensbridge housing projects.


June 6 (#157)

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

(2008)

Rating: 8.8

Setting: An early autumn afternoon on the quad at Columbia University.


June 7 (#158)

Duster

Stratosphere

(1998)

Rating: 9.3

Setting:Flyover country,’ but from a birds-eye view.


June 8 (#159)

R.E.M.

Murmur

(1983)

Rating: 10.0

Setting: A long-abandoned, kudzu covered rail trestle, off of the beaten path in the rural South.


June 9 (#160)

Rodriguez

Cold Fact

(1970)

Rating: 9.2

Setting: Inner-city Detroit, after the riots.


June 10 (#161)

Galaxie 500

Today

(1988)

Rating: 9.2

Setting: Autumn in New England.


June 11 (#162)

Ernest Hood

Neighborhoods

(1975)

Rating: 8.0

Setting: A tiny logging town in the Pacific Northwest, as afternoon turns to evening.


June 12 (#163)

Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes

(2008)

Rating: 9.3

Setting: Springtime in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


June 13 (#164)

Pere Ubu

The Modern Dance

(1978)

Rating: 8.9

Setting: An abandoned factory in the deindustrialized Midwest.


June 14 (#165)

Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago

(2007)

Rating: 9.0

Setting: Winter in a remote cabin along the Great Lakes.


June 15 (#166)

John Fahey

Blind Joe Death / John Fahey

(1959)

Rating: 8.5

Setting: Creekside at sunset.


June 16 (#167)

OutKast

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

(1994)

Rating: 9.0

Setting: An early summer evening in East Point.


June 17 (#168)

Beach House

Beach House

(2006)

Rating: 7.8

Setting: A quiet cove on the Chesapeake Bay.


June 18 (#169)

Pavement

Slanted and Enchanted

(1992)

Rating: 10.0

Setting: The town that you grew up in — after a few years spent away.


June 19 (#170)

Giant Sand

Valley of Rain

(1985)

Rating: 7.5

Setting: A western highway, under dark storm clouds.


June 20 (#171)

Animal Collective

Spirit They’re Gone Spirit They’ve Vanished

(2000)

Rating: 8.0

Setting: A secluded forest deep within the Eastern Woodlands.


June 21 (#172)

The Replacements

Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash

(1981)

Rating: 7.3

Setting: A suburban Midwest garage.


June 22 (#173)

Silver Jews

Starlite Walker

(1994)

Rating: 8.5

Setting: Aboard a train moving slowly across the landscape.


June 23 (#174)

Grizzly Bear

Horn of Plenty

(2004)

Rating: 7.2

Setting: A campfire under a new moon.


June 24 (#175)

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth

(1982)

Rating: 7.7

Setting: A poorly lit subway platform.


June 25 (#176)

Iron & Wine

The Creek Drank the Cradle

(2002)

Rating: 8.8

Setting: The rural South, captured in a grainy photograph.


June 26 (#177)

Joanna Newsom

The Milk-Eyed Mender

(2004)

Rating: 8.7

Setting: A meadow surrounded by golden aspen trees. 


June 27 (#178)

The Hold Steady

Almost Killed Me

(2004)

Rating: 7.7

Setting: A Minneapolis bar, as the Saturday night crowd starts to gather.


June 28 (#179)

Pixies

Come On Pilgrim

(1987)

Rating: 9.3

Setting: A dark forest, in the sleepy west of the woody east.


June 29 (#180)

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

I See a Darkness

(1999)

Rating: 8.9

Setting: A dilapidated, overgrown churchyard.


June 30 (#181)

Wilco

A.M.

(1995)

Rating: 7.4

Setting: On the road to someplace better…


Author

  • 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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