While some groups can take three of four releases to truly find their sound, others come out the gate swinging with debuts that not only announce a must-hear newcomer on the music scene, but that also promise to change the musical landscape for years to come.
Our favorite debuts of 2013 range from releases by local pop favorites to thrashing punk releases from across the pond, but these albums all have one thing in common: they have us very excited for what’s next.
#10: PAPA – Tender Madness
PAPA doesn’t reach for the skies with their debut, Tender Madness. Rather, they play within their strengths and deliver a thoughtful album that is tangible and resonates with listeners through relatable themes.
The duo of Darren Weiss and Daniel Presant have been friends since they were kids and have been making music together in some capacity for nearly as long. That connection is clear on Tender Madness. The album displays an intimacy that I believe is owed to that long-cultivated relationship.
Proprietors of catchy melancholia and finely curated lyrics, PAPA’s warm textures are inviting, emotionally evocative, and reflective of a group simply trying to make great music. Whether that all changes with newfound success and a second effort remains to be seen, but this year’s full-length debut from PAPA delivers everything you could ask for from a band coming into their own. – Marni Epstein
Listen: “I Am The Lion King”
#9: Classixx – Hanging Gardens
You’d be right in thinking that naming your band “Classixx” before even putting out an album is a little bit presumptuous. At least, that would be the case for any other artist, but this duo of house DJs from LA has been at this gig for years now. This might be their first official LP, but they’ve been busting out popular remixes of even more popular artists (Phoenix? Ladyhawke? Madonna?) since 2009. There was never any doubt that Classixx would go down in history as one of the great LA house music artists of the 2000s after they released the classic track “I’ll Get You” in 2009. Hanging Gardens is just more proof that their name was more prophetic than presumptuous. – Marcus Slater
Listen: “All You’re Waiting For”
#8: Savages – Silence Yourself
Cheers to this all-female UK quartet for having released their debut album Silence Yourself — arguably the biggest piece of evidence that post-punk is here to stay — back in May of this year. On it are eleven tracks of absolute ferocity that live up to the band’s name, drilling effective distortion and bold basslines without hesitation. Jehnny Beth’s dagger-like vocals add to the equation, resulting in an adrenaline-inducing debut. If only the album had opened with “I Am Here,” an anthem that proudly announces Savages to the world and illustrates just how ready they are to conquer it. – David Fisch
Listen: “Shut Up”
#7: MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
In a year rife with solid debuts, MS MR managed to stand out in the crowd with Secondhand Rapture, the follow-up to their promising 2012 debut EP, Candy Bar Creep Show. With the EP’s standout track “Hurricane” leading the way, the NY-based duo (vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow) released one of the most cohesive albums of the year, firmly establishing the project’s sound: sexy, dark pop vocals, explosive percussion, and raw emotion throughout. – Kristin Houser
#6: Capital Cities – In A Tidal Wave of Mystery
On the surface, you may be quick to dismiss the bouncily bleepy-bloopy indie-pop sounds of Capital Cities as all fluff and no fire, but give In A Tidal Wave of Mystery a listen, and you’ll find that there’s more to Capital Cities than “Safe And Sound.” Though their infectious hooks are decidedly poppy, they’re delightfully executed and impossible to not sing along to. That the band truly has fun doing what they’re doing is plainly evident and, in the end, isn’t that what life’s all about? – Lesley Park
Listen: “Kangaroo Court”
#5: Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lorde was one of the most talked about debut artists of 2013. Whether it was her dissing of the excessive lifestyle of the rap industry with the debut single “Royals” or the fact that she is an eyebrow-raising 17 years old, Lorde captured America’s attention. The sassy, soulful artist, whose real name is Ella Lani Yelich-O’Connor, has a distinctively expressive voice often compared to Lana Del Ray’s drawling style, but layered over dreamy synth-pop beats, this female artist amps up the energy, particularly on songs like “Team.” With her success coming at such a young age, it’ll be interesting to see how Lorde sustains this buzz, but for now, this debut album sits proudly on our list for launching this young, unique pop star to fame. – Mary Bonney
#4: Darkside – Psychic
The young Chilean-American Nicolas Jaar had already been making a real name for himself (particularly on 2011’s Space Is Only Noise) before he decided on an album-length collaboration with guitarist and fellow Brown University graduate Tim Harrington. The result is a remarkable fusion of electronica, funk, jazz, and whatever else the pair felt like on a debut album that manages to be both loose and utterly cohesive. Despite the familiarity with Jaar’s previous work, this debut as Darkside has the thrill of the new, and with highlights such as the slinky groove of opener “Golden Arrow” and the unique take on dance music in “Freak, Go Home,” Psychic is an unclassifiable album that nevertheless oozes with class. – Jay Chirinos
Listen: “Freak, Go Home”
#3: Disclosure – Settle
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Disclosure’s Settle made it to our list of top debut albums. The effort has all the elements of a great dance album: pop-relevant, high-energy beats; a playfulness that makes you want to dance; and a confidence in who the Surrey duo is. While some might complain of it pulling a little too much from the late-’90s, I personally love the fact that these guys can come out swinging with such a strong first effort and are able to revive a style while doing so. This was a must-listen for me and should be the same for you. – Mikiel Houser
Listen: “Latch” feat. Sam Smith
#2: Haim – Days Are Gone
Angelenos Haim have hit the ground running so hard their metaphorical feet are riddled with burns and friction blisters. Gross imagery aside, Haim’s meteoric rise to prominence has been buoyed by their decidedly strong debut, Days Are Gone. Strategically blending folk, pop, and R&B influences, Days Are Gone instantly captivated the blogosphere and rightly so. The addictive single “The Wire” is only the tip of the iceberg. The sky’s the limit for the Haim sisters. – Lelsey Park
#1: Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
Scottish trio Chvrches appears several times on LA Music Blog’s year-end lists. Recover is our favorite EP, and The Bones Of What You Believe is our third favorite album of the year. It’s also our favorite debut album of the year. So many good albums came out this year, but I really can’t stop listening to this one. Not only is it amazing, but the fact that it is the group’s debut is just not fair. Their production, hooks, lyrics, and songwriting all reflect those of seasoned musicians. Lauren Mayberry’s pure voice carries over heavy and beautiful synth-pop, and it’s really no wonder they went from selling out The Troubadour to The Fonda to The Wiltern all within the span of five months. – Gerry Doot