The Best Debut Albums Of 2011

With Ghostpoet, James Blake, Death Grips
SWIMMING-Ecstatstics-International
Of all the newcomers that launched their career this year, here are our ten favourite albums that delivered and hold more promise.

-

10. SWIMMING ‘Ecstatics International’

If Four Tet had gone to school with The Cure in the ’70s instead of Burial in the ’90s then a band like Swimming may have been born earlier. But three decades later their contrast in romantic drive simply kills. Ascend to their majestic heights before they plunge you deep into their indie swoon.

Matthew Bennett

BEST BIT: ‘Mining For Diamonds’ is a classic.



-

9. HOW TO DRESS WELL ‘Love Remains’

Tom Krell makes Burial’s ghostly beats sound like Thomas the Tank Engine’s tune. Krell’s paper thin warble and delicate wisps of abandoned beats hears this haunted protagonist snatch Lisa Left Eye’s soul before stitching it into his vanishing heart then singing it back through a $5 microphone.

Matthew Bennett

BEST BIT: The sepulchral bling of ‘Endless Rain’.



-

8. AUSTRA ‘Feel It Break’

2011 saw Goth dust off its mascara pen (hello Gazelle Twin, Zola Jesus et al). But it was left to Katie Stelmanis to fly the black flag highest. Perfectly pitched melodrama, dateless sounds and a voice to kill a hundred choirboys made all her peers sound like they’re off to an alternative karaoke night down the student union.

Matthew Bennett

BEST BIT: ‘Beat The Pulse’s sheer baroque force.



-

7. CLOUD CONTROL ‘Bliss Release’

Cloud Control, the Australian four-piece that specialize in dreamy psychy folk and boast an ethereal, dark female singer in the form of Heidi Lenffer, made waves first in their native Oz with a clutch of awards and then in the UK with BBC 6Music acclaim. Slap ’em on and toast beside the embers of the summer.

Matthew Bennett

BEST BIT: ‘There’s Nothing In The Water That We Can’t Fight’ - low-def Polaroid voices bring a welcome softness to the scene.



-

6. SHABAZZ PALACES ‘Black Up’

Behind Shabazz Palaces is the fictional Palaceer Lazaro. Behind the fictional Lazaro is boho-rap veteran Ismael Butler. Confusing, yes, but all you need to know is that ‘Black Up’ is a throbbing interplanetary assault of future hip-hop and punchy rhymes that’ll make your knees quiver.

Joe Zadeh

BEST BIT: ‘Free Press And Curl’: soulful vocals and plodding bass charges.



-

5. THE VACCINES ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’

Few newcomers can stand as tall as The Vaccines at the rear end of 2011. So entrenched are they in our musical conscious that it’s hard to believe they’re a band still in its infancy. The secret to their success? A frenetic energy mixed with some of the best anti-love songs to come out all year.

Sam Ballard

BEST BIT: Its relentlessness, from beginning to end.



-

4. THREE TRAPPED TIGERS 'Route One Or Die'

Few bands could smash together the worlds of thrash, wonky prog and abrasive electronica - then walk out the other side unscathed. But TTT, an incredible sonic force, simply thrive on the live circuit. Here they’ve been slowly contemplating every one of their stealthy steps with hungry aplomb and navigating their way towards uninhabited ground via three spaciously released EPs and their thrilled debut LP ‘Route One of Die’. If you like the wilful tearing down of genres brought by Aphex Twin or the subversion of classic sounds a la Prefuse 73 whilst keeping a firm eye on a heavy aesthetic then you’ll love the unpredictability of this cult trio.

Matthew Bennett

BEST BIT: Album closer “Reset” is a fitting end to a tumultuous and captivating journey to new sonic space.



-

3. GHOSTPOET ‘Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jams’

From the moment our ears were massaged with the Kano remix of ‘Cash And Carry Me Home’ to the now Mercury-award nominated ‘Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jams’ we knew Ghostpoet was going to have a good year. The man responsible, Obaro Ejimiwe, looks set to be a future favourite.

Sam Ballard

BEST BIT: ‘Cash And Carry Me Home’ - standout single.



-

2. JAMES BLAKE ‘James Blake’

James Blake had a hell of a lot to back up in 2011. He started the year as ubiquitous cover star and king of the p**t-d*****p sound. What followed? The hype failed quite to explode into scene domination, although with his October ‘Enough Thunder’ EP boasted another ‘Limit To Your Love’-cover classic in the form of ‘A Case Of You’, the Joni Mitchell track. Mercury glory was not to be, as PJ Harvey toddled up to the podium to accept the prize. Voice seems to be taking primacy from bass with Blake as he develops - as he told Clash about Outkast’s influence: “They inspired me to allow the voice to dictate where the music goes”. With a voice like Blake’s, we’re happy for it to go wherever it wants.

Miguel Cullen

BEST BIT: The piercing taps in ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir’ that make your speakers feel all weird inside.



-

1. DEATH GRIPS ‘Exmilitary’

Whiter-than-white bubblegum pop, well-mannered ‘rock stars’ and innocuous MOR proponents erring on the right side of caution; we want feather-ruffling, controversy and even better...danger! Thank fuck for Death Grips then, who came hurtling along through the rubble earlier this year to stir up an almighty shit storm of ungodly, noisy transmutations. The paradigm had shifted. Hip-hop and punk were finally united in an avant-garde meeting of minds.

Mexican Girl, Info Warrior, founding member Flatlander and drummer Zach Hill are Death Grips: four audacious combatants who shot onto the scene with a free thirteen-track mixtape, ‘Exmilitary’. This no-holds-barred manifesto opens with a disturbing Charles Manson sample and embodies primal club bass, bulletproof rap, spine-crunching digital hardcore and a soupcon of Shangan electro. “It’s about darkness, chaos, energy,” explains Flatlander. “Sonically, we are drawn to raw sounds paired with the massiveness of club music.”

Released on vinyl and cassette, ‘Exmilitary’ covers miles of thematic ground - science, the occult, physicality and the cult mentality, to name but a few. “There is no specific kind of person connecting with our music,” continues ticking time-tomb Flatlander. “It’s multi-dimensional and it’s not about values or social definition. The universalism isn’t by design, it’s a feeling. Vibration and pulse.”

‘Exmilitary’ wasn’t released as a proper album - its mixtape form prevented them from paying for the myriad samples used within - so their proper debut LP is planned for next year. This is just the beginning of the nightmare.

April Welsh

BEST BIT: The gut-wrenching pull of ‘Guillotine’, with its accompanying grainy video and seat-belt wearing protagonist.



-

Read our 'Bubbling Under' list to see who just missed out on a Top Ten spot HERE.

Have your say

Sign in or Register to leave comments
-