Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Four Blinded by the Floodlights contributors reveal their favourite debut albums.
An artist's debut is often their defining statement or at least their opening introduction to hook us into their genius.
For National Album Day, I got four contributors to give us their favourite debut albums and what I got back was an eclectic mix of brilliant established and more underground performers.
So without further ado, here are eight debut records that have lingered with our writers!
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not (Matthew McLister)
Sometimes timing is everything when it comes to music. Back in 2005, life was changing for me. As a fresh-faced 18-year-old coming to terms with a big move to a scary new city, there was one band who perfectly soundtracked this year of transition. During my freshers year at the University of Glasgow, the Arctic Monkeys were the talk of the campus.
Endlessly hyped in the NME (which I’d religiously buy every Friday from the QMU student union shop), demo versions of their early songs spread amongst my peer group like wildfire. Before long, tracks like ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ and ‘Dancing Shoes’ were being belted out of our student flat iPod speakers during pre-drinking Ring Of Fire sessions. There was a real buzz surrounding the release of their debut, one I can’t really remember there being for a band since!
I bore witness to this mainstream hype on my first proper Glasgow night out in October 2005 at the infamous Garage nightclub. As midnight approached, the smell of cheap alcopops dominated the room and sweaty youngsters danced around without a care in the world to the hits of the day. To mix it up from the dominating hip hop and pop tunes, the DJ put on the crashing tones of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and the place went bonkers. To see an indie band get this type of reception was glorious, even if there was still some confusion: credible indie bands weren’t supposed to be this popular, surely? Especially ones who had proven to be an overnight internet sensation. It had all been done without major label backing: Arctic Monkeys had cracked the code.
By the following January, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not was released to widespread acclaim (multiple NME and Brit Awards, and they took home the coveted 2006 Mercury Price), breaking records along the way (it became the highest selling debut album in UK history with 363,735 copies in its first week). Alex Turner’s tales of failed romance, sweaty dancefloors and 00’s British culture couldn’t help but hit the mark with myself and millions of others. The reason for the success was obvious: the Arctic Monkeys were four everyman indie-rock heroes describing what it was like to be young in Great Britain. Added to that, it was all done with garage rock edge and romanticism. The music was fun and worthy of all the acclaim that came its way.
Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships (Matthew McLister)
Lets rewind back to May 2012. Having split up with my girlfriend of almost three years the night before, I can’t say I was in the best frame of mind for a midweek gig. I even contemplated giving it a miss (sacrilegious I know!). Thankfully my old flatmate talked me through and I reluctantly watched Brooklyn trio Augustines: how glad I am that we did. They performed a joyous set at Glasgow’s abc2 venue which, ten years on, goes down as my favourite gig of all time. Soon an obsession with their music took hold of me.
The band’s debut album Rise Ye Sunken Ships is an indie cult classic full of heart-pounding indie rock anthems. The songs themselves are heavily inspired by the untimely death of frontman Billy McCarthy’s mother and brother. Yet there’s a theme of hope and overcoming the setbacks life can throw at you. 'Book Of James' plays out like an emotional rollercoaster, 'Headlong Into The Abyss' warm and inspiration, whilst 'Juarez' is a euphoric highlight.
Once I heard the poignancy of ‘Chapel Song’ on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show I was hooked and it’s a record which keeps drawing me back in time and again – you’ll want to cry, smile and jump around, sometimes even in the same song! Augustines are one of those bands who really bring their music to life through their live performances and it all began with the power of their debut album. You’ll struggle to find an indie band more loved by their fanbase - a timeless alternative rock cult classic.
American Football by American Football (Karl Blakesley)
When American Football released their seminal debut album back in the late 90s, they couldn’t have imagined the influence that record would have on rock music throughout the next two decades. Starting out as most bands do, American Football was basically a group of high school friends getting together to record some music, with the band splitting up less than a year after their first self-titled record came out, as they were simply all heading off to college.
In the years that followed, something special happened. Completely unintended, the trio of Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes and Steve Lamos had started a whole scene, one that Mike himself had laid the groundwork for a few years earlier with his Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc projects. With the original American Football record the sound of Midwest Emo had been born, keeping the emotional heart alive but scrapping the hardcore noise in place of a mix of more classic indie-rock and experimental math-rock.
With songs like the now much-memed opener 'Never Meant', the beautiful horn-tinged melancholy of 'The Summer Ends' and eight-minute masterpiece 'Stay Home', American Football’s debut continued to gain a legion of cult of listeners across the globe. Fast forward to 2014 and the band reformed to play what was supposed to be just a few one-off shows in tribute to the album’s continuing legacy, including an appearance at the Reading and Leeds festival. However, those shows would open the door to yet more new fans – myself included – leading to the band returning to the studio for two more albums: the also outstanding, also eponymous follow-ups, American Football (II) and American Football (III).
American Football were were never meant to be the legendary band that they have become. It all happened because of that understated debut album connecting with people and just taking on an entire life of its own. As it continues to influence a new generation of artists to this very day, American Football remains the unlikely debut that magically became an enduring classic.
TV Broke My Brain by Man Made (Karl Blakesley)
A debut that you may not have heard, but you absolutely need to – TV Broke My Brain from Nile Marr, the son of The Smiths legendary guitarist Johnny Marr.
Although he now releases music under his own name, back in 2016 Nile introduced himself as Man Made, a project steered by him that was basically an alias for his solo output. Now as the son of one of the all-time greats, it is natural to expect a certain level of guitar mastery and lyrical finesse from Man Made. Luckily that is exactly what TV Broke My Brain offers, with Nile proving on his debut that he is very much his father’s son.
TV Broke My Brain is a stunning collection of indie and surf-rock tracks that would have easily held their own against any of those produced by the Britpop giants of the 90s. It is almost a crime that TV Broke My Brain and Nile have somehow not got the attention they deserve yet, because this really is one of the best debuts of the last six years. From the breezy playfulness of 'Raining In My Head' to the technology-shunning coos of 'Plastic Key To Living' and graceful waltz of curtain call 'Slowdance', Nile’s first record remains a nostalgia-soaked delight.
Oasis - Definitely Maybe (Neil Renton)
I’d say it was about 3am on a Sunday morning on September 4 1994 when I realised we were about to witness something special. Walking past the Deep Sea chippy at the top of Leith Walk there was a guy clutching a steaming pile of sauce-covered newspaper. It wasn’t his takeaway that was memorable. It was the song he was singing.
He was belting out the chorus for ‘Married With Children’ the final song on the Oasis debut album Definitely Maybe that had been released just days before. And the thing is everyone within earshot knew the song even though it was a track from a newly released album. That summed up the effect Oasis had.
They salvaged music from the early nineties drought it had been festering in. They changed popular culture. They changed lives. And they gave us something to sing about.
The Killers - Hot Fuss (Neil Renton)
Despite hailing from Las Vegas, The Killers weren’t initially embraced by their home city. The reason being Hot Fuss was recorded in LA and not Sin City. So while it took them longer to be accepted in their own neighbourhood, the rest of the world, especially Britain, took to them. And who can blame us? From the sinister rumblings of ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’ to the rousing ‘Somebody Told Me.’
From one of the most euphoric anthems ever in ‘All These Things I Have Done.’ to three minutes and forty-two seconds of perfection in ‘Mr Brightside.’ A song which will still be in the charts long after the apocalypse. Charismatic frontman Brandon Flowers oozes confidence when he’s on stage. And with material like this which is as mesmerising as anything else released this century, who can blame him?
Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony (Josh Robinson)
Truth be told, I’m a sucker for a sophomore album. And also one for loving an artist’s second or third album before then going back to their debuts retrospectively. Actually, maybe it’s not about me preferring more mature follow-up records. Perhaps I’m just late to the hype too often? Anyway, here are a couple of my favourite debut albums in the alternative scene:
This excellent debut album from the Welsh band did soundtrack part of my time at University. ‘Homesick’ is a fantastic opener, with an explosively angsty chorus. Huge singles ‘Kathleen’ & ‘Cocoon’ followed, creating an incredibly strong start. ‘Pacifier’ was euphoric in the middle (and fantastic live) with ‘Hourglass’ a pretty little acoustic number straight after. The end of the album is strong enough although doesn’t hold any of my favourite tracks. Overall it marked their arrival as an exciting new band. Their second album The Ride continued their momentum as rising stars, being a band clearly capable of making hit after hit.
Lyrically they mastered tales of young love, heartbreak and modern relationships. Sadly, they tried to repeat this formula too much on 2019’s The Balance. It's samey, copy & paste like nature lost me as a proper fan in all honesty, and I don’t think I was the only one. They became stale, rather than exciting. It has since transpired that in these recent years some of their relationships have reportedly broken down, and they have seemingly split.
Saint Raymond - Young Blood (Josh Robinson)
My introduction to Saint Raymond was through his support of Ed Sheeran in 2014. He impressed me with a few glossy indie songs that were to form part of his 2015 debut album Young Blood. The title track became a hit and is an anthem for young people.
‘Everything She Wants’ has an addictive melody that sums up the album nicely: effortlessly catchy. ‘Fall At Your Feet’ was a personal favourite, with its lyrics simple but incredibly relatable: “Watch me fall at your feet / Give it all to make you feel complete / But who am I trying to be? / Who am I trying to please?”
The Deluxe version also boasts 'Movie In My Mind', which is a brilliant little song about feeling stuck in a cycle of liking someone. Unlike the wave-riding of Catfish, Saint Raymond instead took more of a hiatus from music, releasing an EP before finally gifting us his second LP in 2021 titled We Forgot We Were Dreaming.