30 Favorite Debut Albums

As a new teacher in a new school, I am meeting new students and faculty each week.  When they see that I'm teaching music, they often ask me what my favorite bands or genres are.  It's a cliche to say that I like everything, but it's true.  I have predilections like anybody else.  I certainly have listened to way more indie rock than hip-hop for example, but that's not to say I don't love hip-hop either.  Fairly recently, a friend of mine wrote on his Facebook wall that he loved The Doobie Brothers.  This is a guitar virtuoso that loves noise rock and metal.  He was concerned people would think that it's uncool to love "What A Food Believes."  Well I messaged him promptly to let him know that I enjoy "yacht rock," ranging from Andrew Gold to Steely Dan and more!   Honestly, an artist like Jay Ferguson makes me think of dear old dad, also responsible for introducing me to what he felt was one of the greatest debut albums of all time, which would be the self-titled record by The Cars.  It still remains a favorite of mine and the main topic of discussion here.  A debut album sets the stage for what audiences can expect, including genre, style, inventiveness, and many more facets.  Most will evolve their sound (see The Flaming Lips or Wilco for examples) but I still go back to certain bands' first records more than subsequent ones for purposes of context and an appreciation of humble beginnings.

Then in passing throughout the course of conversation, my favorite talk radio host Nick Digilio on WGN casually brought up the topic of "great debut albums," igniting my interest to dig into my collection and formulate a list.  I've made many lists over the years, but never thought of what I consider to be favorite examples of a band that emerges strong.  For decades, there has always been a special pack of bands or artists who have been able to blow music fans away with how incredible their recordings were right out of the gate. Sometimes a killer rookie album launches a band or artist on a career path to superstardom and other times their debut effort remains their best or only great work.  My choices here I feel are great "call to arms" if you will or introductory musical statements that still hold up.  I decided to not go with a few obvious choices that most would include like the debut from Led Zeppelin (sorry but Led Zeppelin II is better for me personally) or Please Please Me by The Beatles.  Even Plastic Ono Band, I excluded though it is obviously a debut solo record.  Feel free to scream at any of these choices.  Any time a list comes out, we all know it's subjective and personal to where musical preferences vary from ear to ear.  I expect people to think of many titles I didn't include, which I welcome in the comment section.  Without further ado, here are some of my choices for favorite debut albums in no particular order, although since Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville remains my favorite record of all time, I'm of course inclined to choose that one over the rest.  And before you ask, I'm not the biggest Guns N' Roses fan, sorry.

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Arcade Fire - Funeral
The Cars - The Cars
The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic
De La Soul - 3 Feet High & Rising
The Jesus And Mary Chain - Psychocandy
Steely Dan - Can’t Buy A Thrill
Television - Marquee Moon
Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

R.E.M - Murmur
A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Self-Titled
Jackson Browne - Jackson Browne
Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of
Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!
The La’s - The La’s
P.M Dawn - Of the Heart, Of the Soul & Of the Cross: Utopian Experience
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers


Roxy Music - Roxy Music
Wire - Pink Flag
MC5 - Kick Out The Jams
The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
The Pretenders - The Pretenders

Weezer - The Blue Album
Van Halen - Van Halen

Ramones - Ramones
Madonna - Madonna
Erik B & Rakim - Paid In Full

James Laczkowski