Pittsburgh's independent music source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Top 11 Debut Albums Of 2008

If this year's debut releases are any indication, then the prognosis for music is excellent in the years ahead. The best debuts of 2008 — not counting great releases from Bon Iver or Vampire Weekend, which we included in our 2007 roundup — embrace a wide variety of sounds and styles, including indie-rock, pop, disco, hip-hop, folk, electro-dance and techno freak beats, as well as a healthy dose of '70s-inspired classic roots rock. All are worth checking out.

Click here for more entries in the Best CDs of 2008 series.

1. Fleet Foxes

The Seattle band’s first full-length album is an utterly gorgeous set of ethereal, psych-tinged folk. Using rich melodies and heavenly harmonies to flesh out beautiful, free-flowing songs, the disc echoes The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Sacred Harp singing and British folk. All the while, the group still sounds like it's created a magical musical world of its own. This is a stunner of a debut.

2. Hercules & Love Affair

This New York project, led by DJ/producer Andrew Butler, blends straight-up disco and house music with beautifully arranged dance tunes; the results are as poignant as they are celebratory. Many guest vocalists are featured here, most notably Antony Hegarty, who sounds like a disco natural in the vein of Sylvester.

3. School of Seven Bells

Former Secret Machines guitarist Ben Curtis provides the thick layers of dream-pop that lie beneath the soaring vocals of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza. The trio borrows from a broad range of sources, from early Appalachian folk to '60s Krautrock, while maintaining a contemporary, ethereal feel.

4. Friendly Fires

The young British trio makes its debut with an excellent album of new-wave-influenced dance-rock, which features funky dance-floor rhythms and pop melodies that bring to mind the work of Talking Heads, The Rapture, New Order and LCD Soundsystem.

5. Cool Kids

The Chicago duo plays enjoyable old-school hip-hop that showcases raw, sparse production, as well as irreverent lyrics which send up old-school rap conventions as much as they celebrate them.

6. The Grand Archives

The debut full-length from this Seattle band -- led by Mat Brooke, formerly of Band of Horses and Carissa's Wierd -- is a lovely set of gentle indie-pop. A variety of instrumentation and beautiful multi-part harmonies help flesh out Brooke's sweetly wistful songs, which range from soft folk-pop ballads to energetic rockers.

7. Noah and the Whale

For optimistic, life-affirming indie-pop, listen to this every day. You might not need to refill your prescription for anti-depressants.

8. Blind Pilot

At first, the songs on 3 Rounds and a Sound might seem mellow and hazy, even a little unassuming. Over time, though, they grow on you, and ultimately beat down any resistance to their power and beauty.

9. Santogold

Although the New York-based Santogold (a.k.a. Santi White) is often compared to M.I.A. -- they work with the same producers (Switch, Diplo) and maintain a similar multi-genre approach -- her self-titled album is much more pop-oriented. Straightforward song structures help Santogold hold together her genre-blending mix of new-wave synth-pop, reggae, hip-hop, electronica, R&B and rock.

10. The Moondoggies

With a sound that recalls The Band, Neil Young and The Byrds, this excellent young roots-rock group lends soulful three-part harmonies to catchy, well-crafted songs that stretch out at times, yet never engage in self-indulgent noodling. The Moondoggies' members fit right in to today's Seattle scene, nestled between the sublime folk-pop of Fleet Foxes and the earthier country-rock of The Maldives.

11. Joshua Morrison

Another sublime debut, this collection of low-key folk-pop from a previously unknown Seattle singer-songwriter combines sparse production, haunting melodies and whispered, airy vocals that bring to mind Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek.

Copyright 2008 KEXP

Kevin Cole