The Debut Album Project: November (“No Theme November”)

Debut Album Project

Throughout November, the Debut Album Project barreled ahead with no particular destination in mind. Sure, there were a lot of nineties, garage rock, and ‘international’ records thrown in along the way, but it was, officially speaking, something of a free-for-all. And with no unifying theme, there’s really not much more to say in this introduction.

We’ll be continuing the “no theme” approach in December, picking up the best debuts that were missed during the first eleven months of the year — including many that we don’t actually own on vinyl. 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.


November 1 (#305)

The Crickets

The “Chirping” Crickets

(1957)

Rating: 9.0

What We Said: “It’s [Buddy] Holly, The Crickets, and this album that set the earliest template for a quality rock LP. Sure, several of the tracks arrived first as singles. Sure, Here’s Little Richard and After School Session both arrived first. Still, there’s something about this one that just — at least to my ears — feels a little more consistent, while simultaneously being a little more varied.”


November 2 (#306)

Blur

Leisure

(1991)

Rating: 7.4

What We Said: “Like Pablo HoneyLeisure is better than its reputation would suggest. Granted, there are three clear highlights here (“She’s So High,” “Sing,” and “There’s No Other Way”) but while they bear the marks of their era — particularly the then-fading “baggy” sound — the remaining tracks are far from an embarrassment.”


November 3 (#307)

The Wailers

The Fabulous Wailers

(1959)

Rating: 7.6

What We Said:The Fabulous Wailers stands as a document of a transitional moment in American rock and roll. While much of it is certainly of the time, a bridge to the not-too-distant future can be heard in the riveting “Dirty Robber” — later to be covered by the band’s Tacoma proteges in The Sonics.”


November 4 (#308)

Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five

(1995)

Rating: 8.8

What We Said: “It’s a bit of a toss-up as to what is better here: Ben Folds’ consistently excellent songwriting (really, the hooks are glorious, and the lyrics strike a wonderful balance between sincerity and sarcasm); or the phenomenal musicianship of Folds (piano), Robert Sledge (bass), and Darren Jessee (drums).”


November 5 (#309)

NEU!

NEU!

(1972)

Rating: 9.2

What We Said: “[It] still sounds like a transmission from someplace far ahead of where we are. Sure, experimental rock music has internalized much of what you’ll find here over the intervening half-century, but there’s still something distantly unknowable about this record. Listening to it in 2023 still comes off as a disorienting mix of past, present, and future.”


November 6 (#310)

A Tribe Called Quest

People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

(1990)

Rating: 9.0

What We Said: “There’s a mix of sonic vibrancy and timely introspection throughout — not unlike that which prevailed in rap music as the 80s turned to the 90s — but one whose beaming melodies and beats still resonate over three decades later.”


November 7 (#311)

Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney

(1995)

Rating: 7.8

What We Said: “Even without their eventual ace in the hole, drummer Janet Weiss, [Corin] Tucker and [Carrie] Brownstein crafted a scintillating and compact set on Sleater-Kinney. These songs waste no time getting to the point, and while the ‘widescreen’ execution of their masterpiece (2005’s The Woods) makes this sound quaint by comparison, it’s only by comparison. This is a powerful statement of intent from one of America’s greatest bands.”


November 8 (#312)

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Psychocandy

(1985)

Rating: 8.9

What We Said: “At the end of the day, Psychocandy is a pop record to the core. Its hooks may be buried beneath buzzsaw guitars and lo-fi production, but just barely. Give them even the slightest bit of your attention, and these fourteen tracks will reveal their immense charm.”


November 9 (#313)

Witch

Introduction

(1972)

Rating: 8.3

What We Said: “As one of the earliest examples of Zamrock, and given its definitively lo-fi sound, it’s easy to approach the debut album from Witch from something of an academic perspective. But while it is important — and undoubtedly interesting — Introduction is simply a pleasure to listen to, front-to-back.”


November 10 (#314)

The Minders

Hooray for Tuesday

(1998)

Rating: 8.3

What We Said: “While it’s dominated by two genuinely stellar songs — the opening title track, and the effervescent “Yeah Yeah Yeah” — the rest of these twenty-eight minutes are generous in their own right. Hooks galore, rich harmonies, and just-off-the-wall-enough arrangements make for an album worthy of frequent revisitation.”


November 11 (#315)

The Breeders

Pod

(1990)

Rating: 8.3

What We Said: “The sound that The Breeders craft on their debut is thoroughly captivating. Each of these twelve tracks packs a serious punch, aided by the bare bones approach of audio engineer Steve Albini. As such, there’s an immediacy here that is nothing short of bracing. It’s on full display, from the sketches, to the more fleshed-out songs, to a thrilling cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun.””


November 12 (#316)

The Cars

The Cars

(1978)

Rating: 8.8

What We Said: “Even though Ric Ocasek didn’t produce it himself, the pop craftsmanship that he displays here makes it wholly understandable why the likes of Weezer and Guided by Voices would turn to Ocasek for their own stabs at radio-friendly power pop.”


November 13 (#317)

The Olivia Tremor Control

Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle

(1996)

Rating: 9.7

What We Said: “I’m willing to wager that the members of Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons [two groups featured on the 2014 tv special, The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles] don’t know shit about “Carnival of Light,” or have intimate knowledge of side four of the “White Album.” But The Olivia Tremor Control sure as fuck did.”


November 14 (#318)

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk

(1970)

Rating: 7.6

What We Said: “Kraftwerk’s self-titled debut is the closest that the group would ever get to the sound and spirit of the nascent Krautrock scene that they have often been associated with. Catching the group in a transitional state, the album sounds embryonic compared to the milestones that would follow in a few years time. With that said, the combination of freewheeling performances, experimental spirit, and Conny Plank’s spartan production, yields frequently thrilling results.”


November 15 (#319)

Sunny Day Real Estate

Diary

(1994)

Rating: 8.6

What We Said: “Not long ago, while sorting through the bins at Portland’s 2nd Avenue Records, those smiling figures caught my eye once again. With my CD copy of Diary long since packed away, I decided to give the album another chance. I’m glad that I did, because for whatever reason, Diary sounds even better to me today than it did in 1995.”


November 16 (#320)

Smashing Pumpkins

Gish

(1991)

Rating: 7.8

What We Said: “While Billy Corgan would add countless layers of guitar to Siamese Dream, he makes good with relative economy here. There’s a depth of tone to these songs — particularly in the rotary-treated guitars — that lends Gish a vaguely psychedelic flavor, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the album’s heavier moments.”


November 17 (#321)

Ride

Nowhere

(1990)

Rating: 9.3

What We Said: “Few albums have ever married a sound and cover image together as perfectly as Ride’s 1990 debut, Nowhere. The giant wave emerging from an otherwise tranquil sea serves as a perfect metaphor for the engulfing sounds contained within: surging, thrashing, and even violent, but simultaneously, mystifyingly beautiful.”


November 18 (#322)

The Congos

Heart of The Congos

(1977)

Rating: 9.6

What We Said: “Anchored by the classic “Fisherman,” against all odds, Heart of The Congos manages to remain just as immersive of a listen across its ten tracks. Like the best dub records — especially those produced by [Lee] Perry — it’s both airy and grounded. But more than just a great sounding record — and really, an in-his-element Perry had no equal — these songs are uniformly excellent.


November 19 (#323)

Paul Revere & The Raiders

Like, Long Hair

(1961)

Rating: 6.0

What We Said: “The most remarkable thing about Like, Long Hair is that it exists at all. Working bands like this generally didn’t make it into the studio in the early sixties, and rarely to record a full-length LP. But as these relative rarities go, it’s par for the course — especially when compared to something like The Fabulous Wailers’ self-titled debut from two years prior.”


November 20 (#324)

The Residents

Meet The Residents

(1974)

Rating: 8.4

What We Said:Faust and The Magic Band camp out in the woods for a week, half-writing a bunch of weird-ass songs; then convene in Daniel Johnston’s parents’ basement to record them over the stolen “Revolution 9” master tapes. As one might imagine, it’s all a bit stupid, kinda disturbing, a little scary, occasionally beautiful, and equal parts pretentious and playful. Oh, and it kinda fucking rules.”


November 21 (#325)

Of Montreal

Cherry Peel

(1997)

Rating: 8.2

What We Said: “There’s an introspection that gives these tracks a much deeper resonance than your typical love song. Recorded while Barnes was still in their early-twenties, these songs contain both subtle and overt references to the gender/sexuality/identity themes that have defined Barnes’ discography. And, at the outset of a career that would take no shortage of fascinating twists and turns, it’s heartening to hear an artist sharing the early steps in their journey of self-discovery in such a raw, sincere, and melodic manner.”


November 22 (#326)

The Miracles

Hi! We’re The Miracles

(1961)

Rating: 7.7

What We Said: “Caught partway between the doo wop stylings of the fifties, and the sophisticated productions that Motown would soon become known for, the debut from The Miracles arrived during a transitional period for pop music, but stands as one of that era’s most charming LPs.”


November 23 (#327)

XTC

White Music

(1978)

Rating: 7.8

What We Said: “[It] probably isn’t the place to start with the band, but it seems to fit the bill of ‘overlooked.’ Beyond its three highlights (“Radios in Motion.” “This Is Pop,” and “Statue of Liberty”) the album is full of catchy songs and energetic performances that thread the line between Devo and Joe Jackson — incidentally, neither of whom had released their own debuts when White Music arrived in early 1978.”


November 24 (#328)

The Standells

Dirty Water

(1966)

Rating: 7.6

What We Said: “Sure, the title track dominates, but it doesn’t eclipse the excellence of the opening “Medication” or closing “Rari.” Nor does it diminish a handful of perfectly solid covers. Ultimately, Dirty Water is still a typical garage rock mixed bag, but it manages a better success rate than most of its contemporaries, largely by never settling into rote filler.”


November 25 (#329)

공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief)

공중도덕 (Gongjoong Doduk)

(2015)

Rating: 8.6

What We Said: “[Mid-Air Thief] craft something definitively their own on Gongjoong Doduk. There’s an acoustic warmth that pairs fascinatingly with the more ‘processed’ elements, and every track has at least one killer hook (and typically quite a few more). And maybe some of it is attributable to a personal language barrier, but there’s a palpable surreal quality that makes it one of the most genuinely refreshing debuts in recent memory.”


November 26 (#330)

Culture

Two Sevens Clash

(1977)

Rating: 8.8

What We Said: “The voices dominate throughout, particularly that of leader Joseph Hill. However, the arrangements and production are plenty praiseworthy as well. Rather than the murky atmospherics of contemporaneous works from Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio, Joe Gibbs and Errol T keep the sound clean, vivid, and vibrant throughout.”


November 27 (#331)

Aphex Twin

Selected Ambient Works 85-92

(1992)

Rating: 9.4

What We Said:Selected Ambient Works practically revels in repetition, but the hypnotic effect that it created would almost-singlehandedly redefine the parameters of modern electronic music. If you’re making a list of the influential electronic albums, start with your Kraftwerk record of choice, and slot this one in at #2.”


November 28 (#332)

Jim Valley With Don & The Goodtimes

Harpo

(1966)

Rating: 7.2

What We Said: “As an album, Harpo is a pretty typical mid-sixties mixed bag. Fortunately the good outweighs the bad, but one does wish that The Goodtimes could conjure up the garage splendor of “I’m Real” more than once. Still, the performances are spirited throughout, and the material is generally solid.”


November 29 (#333)

Sugar

Copper Blue

(1992)

Rating: 8.2

What We Said: “What you get here are ten immaculately-crafted tracks, from what is likely the most hook-forward era of Bob Mould’s career. These songs all bring crisp guitar work and dynamic drums (that snare, in particular, sounds fantastic), but they’re wrapped in engaging melodies and thoughtful lyricism.”


November 30 (#334)

Wu-Tang Clan

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

(1993)

Rating: 9.4

What We Said: “For all of the well-documented virtues of subsequent Wu-Tang records, and oft-excellent releases from the group’s individual members, there’s something about 36 Chambers that feels akin to capturing lightning in a bottle. At the mid-point intermission of the album, it’s hinted/joked that the group’s goal was world domination, but Wu-Tang arguably did something more impressive than that: they crafted a world of their own.”


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