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January 24, 2012

7 Awesome Debut Albums of 2011 from Bands to Keep an Eye On in 2012 and Beyond

If you've been listening to my Monthly Music Wrap-Up podcast, you're aware of all the great music releases that came out last year. It's always great when a band we know and love put out a new album we enjoy, but the exciting part of music is finding those new up and coming artists that blow us away. With an amazing debut release, there's so much potential and promise ahead. It's fun to get in on the ground floor of a great new band and watch them grow and evolve. That's why I'm highlighting seven releases from 2011 of bands that are just getting started. The possibilities for these careers are endless. Let's sit back and watch them unfold together, shall we?

Starscream - Future Towards the End of Forever

Maybe this isn't technically a debut album, but it's their first full length with a price tag on it, so I'm counting it. Starscream blends the chiptune and post-rock genres into a wonderful mix of background haze and rock-the-hell-out blippyness. They've quickly become one of my favorite bands to put on while I'm writing.

The chiptune genre is quickly taking off, with the success of bands like Anamanaguchi and the resurgence of old-school sensibilities in the indie gaming scene. It seems like with every burgeoning new musical scene, there are only one or two bands that take the ideas and twist them in such a way that they transcend the genre and appeal to a wider audience. While I'm intrigued by the chiptune movement, few bands have really rubbed me in all the right ways like Starscream has. They might not have the throngs of supporters that a band like Anamanaguchi has, but given the right circumstances Starscream could be the Radiohead of chiptune music.

The Nighty Nite - Dimples EP

Another technicality. You could logically argue that The Nighty Nite is a mere extension of John Congleton's recently deceased band of over a decade, The Paper Chase. Still, considering my love of The Paper Chase, there was no way I was going to leave this release off the list. Really, my favorite band's demise could feasibly be the best thing to ever happen to them.

It hurt to write that sentence, but the sentiment is one of pure optimism. I don't like a stagnant band that releases variations of the same album over and over again. Yet, I love The Paper Chase. The thing about them is, while the overall music might not have evolved a lot since the transition between Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know and Hide the Kitchen Knives (their first and second albums), it was the lush wall of sounds and rich stories inside the lyrics that kept me coming back.

The Nighty Nite's debut EP doesn't vary from The Paper Chase sound very much either, but it's a bit stripped down, darker, and more chugging. Though, I believe these songs are leftovers from Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1. And the first full length might contain much of the never released Vol. 2 that I'm pretty sure Congleton had already completely written (at least a conversation with a band member the last time I saw them lead me to believe that. After that, though, the expectations are gone. He doesn't need to stick to any idea of what The Nighty Nite is supposed to sound like. Honestly, the idea of a brand-new musical beast with John Congleton's demented creativity behind it makes me absolutely ecstatic.

Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

This is not something I would ever do in a million years, but Holy Ghost!'s self-titled debut makes me want to find a dance floor and hit it with all the passion of a man possessed by the spirit of a young Kevin Bacon. Seriously, it's a really fun record.

Psychic Babble - My Brother's Ears/My Sister's Eyes

This album has been featured on two podcasts and given a 5 out of 5 review on Cerebral Pop already, and for very good reason. It was a wonderful surprise that came out of nowhere and became one of my favorite albums of the year. Just go read Matt's review if you haven't heard any of our praise heaping yet.

Civil Civic - Rules

I'd heard some buzz around Civil Civic's earlier singles/EPs and was mostly indifferent to checking them out, but there was no way I could ignore them when I listened to the teaser single from their upcoming debut full length. When Airspray kicks into gear, I can't help but smile. I immediately donated to their campaign to fund the album with the promise of a download of the single now and the album later. The next few weeks I'd find excuses to take my father-in-law's truck places around town because it had a CD player and the one in my car was broken. With that song cranked it made driving anywhere feel like an action-packed adventure.

They might not be the most mind-blowingly original band (if that's important to you), and I'm not in love with every song on the album, but some of them are so unbelievable upbeat and fun that I can't help but flail around like an idiot whenever they're playing. If even a quarter of their future releases have that effect on me, I'll certainly be picking them up and bopping along like a fool.

PUJOL - Nasty, Brutish, and Short EP

Sometimes it pays to sing up to that newsletter when you buy an album from a record label's site. My email has been on the Saddle Creek mailing list ever since I hopped on that awesome $1 download of Cursive's last release. I briefly skimmed it and noticed they'd signed a new artist, so I clicked the link to see if they were any good.

PUJOL are a bit spastic. They're kind of like if The Hives were a lo-fi indie garage rock band. At least that's how I see them in my head, though, that's probably just my weird imagination. Either way, this release shows a lot of promise for an interesting and long musical career.

Joyce Manor - Joyce Manor

I didn't know this album existed until I saw it at the top of Punknews.org's end of the year list. They remind me a lot of when Against Me first showed up on the punk scene and united the many different groups of punks. There's something about Joyce Manor's music that can appeal to almost everyone who even kind of likes punk music, be it a tween girl into emo or a mohawked street punk fan. If the Against Me comparison holds up, Joyce Manor has a long career of great music that will grow and mature with each subsequent album release. I'm crossing my fingers for it.


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