In honor of Ryan and Garrett’s first blog post on our first blog, it is only appropriate to include the firsts of creative, influential artists just like us. Like these musicians took these mighty first steps in their craft, we too will begin our illustrious careers of hobbyist blog writing. Simon and Garfunkel, Hall and Oates, Sam and Dave, and even Wham! all had to start somewhere. So here’s to the next great male duo. Below is my list of the undisputed, objective, not-for-debate, best first tracks of debut albums. The firsts of firsts.
- Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Since this is a list of firsts, we’ll start with number one. Jimi Hendrix opens his debut album with a song epitomizing what has made him idiosyncratic long past his life. A track of deft musicianship and bluesy, soulful vocals, no one else since has made an impact like this from the start.
2. Take Me To Church – Hozier
Hozier introduced himself to the world in emphatic fashion starting his self-titled debut with this track. Certified 5-time platinum, this song catapulted Hozier into a household name, and its no wonder why. With his reverberating baritone, the song is a seamless blend of rock, gospel, soul and blues. It’s bare lyricism and sultry religious metaphor make it both powerful and intimate.
3. Loser – Beck
Some of you Beck super fans may say “Hey, he had albums before Mellow Gold!” Well, this was his major label debut and it’s included because I make the rules because it’s my (and Garrett’s) blog. A true original, Loser is a song that blends hip-hop, rock, folk and blues. Its absurdist, self-deprecatingly comic lyricism offers wry smiles each listen (of which there are many).
4. Time To Pretend – MGMT
This escapist anthem was indie for the masses. A song that undoubtedly inspired many mid-life crises for those with office jobs and long commutes, this song does psychedelic electronica with pop sensibility to get any party bouncing.
5. I’m Torn Up – St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Less a household name than the aforementioned, this is very much a personal pick. It took enormous restraint for me not to make it number one. The first track to my all-time favorite album (Half the City), Paul Janaway’s scorching vocals lead the soul band to an impassioned debut. A nostalgic R&B group that brings to mind the like of Otis Redding with Stax-esque horns, the retro soul group’s “I’m Torn Up” crescendos into a emotional fervor that stays with the listener quite awhile after.
6. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
Keeping with the genre, Alabama Shakes is another compelling soul band with a dynamic vocalist, Brittney Howard. Supported with a jaunty baseline and guitar riff, the song bounces along as the theme song for resilience through struggle.
7. I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles
This song is just 7, if you know what I mean. This track began the band which irreversibly changed the world of music since. It’s got all the elements of an early Beatles hit, with harmonized vocals, romantic idealism and a melody that makes you want to dance jive in a diner with your hair slicked back.
8. Rhymin’ and Stealin – Beastie Boy
Few acts are as idiosyncratic as the Beastie Boys. Fusing Punk and Rap parodically, these phenom frat stars bring the angst. That’s not to say they aren’t having fun, relishing in the rebellion they create party anthems for menaces to society.
9. Do What You Gotta Do – Clarence Carter
Affectionately dubbed (by me) “The Third Blind Mouse of Soul,” Clarence Carter missed out on the acclaim Stevie and Ray got. The song is a cover of a song sung by both Al Wilson and Nina Simone, but he sings it like it’s his own heartbreak. His deep baritone makes you feel the pang of star-crossed love.
10. Is This It – The Strokes
While the title track isn’t necessarily emblematic of the rest of The Strokes’ iconic garage-rock/post-punk debut, it’s subdued sound introduces Julian Casablancas’ refreshing lyricism as the honest anti-hero of romance.
11. Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley
Another cover song, Elvis emphatically introduced himself as the King-to-be with his rockabilly rendition of Carl Perkin’s successful track. Also recorded by Buddy Holly, “Blue Suede Shoes” showcased the jovial charisma that propelled his fame.
12. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine – The Killers
Mr. Brightside was the second track on Hot Fuss! So close! In any case, this song introduces these icons of the 00’s with the kind of gritty, hook-laden arena rock that still draws massive crowds. Mashing sounds of previous rockers like The Who, The Cars, The Strokes and Duran Duran, the end product are sing-a-long anthems fit for stadium crowds like this.
13. My Name is Jonas – Weezer
Starting off the “Blue Album,” Rivers Cuomo enthusiastically yells his way through this infectious garage nerd-rock track that seamlessly switches between mellow lulls and rambunctious highs. I had an absolute blast clicking these riffs on Rockband for the Wii.
14. Take It Easy – The Eagles
Introducing the Eagles’ eponymous album, this breezy, Californian country-rock jam makes me nostalgic for that one time I didn’t cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway in not my Shelby Convertible.
15. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
“Do side projects or supergroups count!?” Of course they do, imaginary reader! Jack White teams up with Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes to create the elusive, modern, straight-up rock track. While certainly not original, few have rocked out quite this well.
16. The High Road – Broken Bells
Did someone say supergroups? While we’re here let’s bring out “The High Road,” the introductory track of The Shin’s James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse is just well-crafted indie pop. Synth melodies and the soaring choir chorus make it an infectious classic.
17. Animal – Miike Snow
Miike Snow opens their account with a song that pairs somber, introspective lyricism with lively synth beats to make this staple of indie pop.
18. New Life – Depeche Mode
While we may have come to know Depeche Mode for their moodier, darker pieces later on, I’d like us to always remember their innovative synthesized dance pop that the group brought us with their debut album Speak & Spell.
19. Next To You – The Police
Distinct from the new wave hits we associate with The Police, this punk number one track still captures Sting’s romanticism and knack for a great hook.
20. Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen wrote this song as a poem before he recorded it as a song, and exactly zero people are surprised. A bare track about his own platonic relationship with a real Suzanne, there’s a lot to unpack. The transparent, poignant lyricism complimented with the angelic choir make for a compelling listen.
21. Return to the Moon (Political Song For Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo) – EL VY
My last side project inclusion, this is The National’s Matt Beringer with Brent Knopf. This song finds Beringer in a considerably better mood he usually is with his main act, as this alternative rock borders on disco at times. Beringer’s deep, barrel-aged voice compliments it like a fine wine pairing.
22. Your Song – Elton John
“But Ryan, this is his second album!!” Well, I sit typing this in America, and his self-titled album was actually the first album released in the US although he had already released one in the UK. So there. Anyways, this song is vintage Elton, with heartfelt piano melodies and a swelling string section. I can’t believe he wrote it for me.
23. 40 Day Dream – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
A good old-fashioned stomp and clap, jaunty hippie folk song that makes you long for summer and ditching your responsibilities to buy a Volkswagen Bus and join a commune… just me?
24. Good Times Roll – The Cars
Joining the new wave of new wave, The Cars add synth to their rock n’ roll debut with a feel-good track.
25. Blame it On Me – George Ezra
Ezra’s smooth baritone is brought out for the first time in this catchy, romantic pop track.