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Pop ‘stache Presents: Top Debut Albums (60-49)

written by: on May 16, 2011

60. Air - Moon Safari60. Air – Moon Safari (1998)

Air’s Moon Safari starts strong with “La Femme D’argent,” a seven-minute instrumental jazz/electronica exploration that perfectly prepares listeners for the fantastic album ahead. Through the rest of the duo’s first release, listeners are treated to a string of ambient electronica jams that are as catchy as they are relaxing. Perfectly mellow, exciting and new, Moon Safari broke ground by blending synthetic sounds with acoustic instruments in a way that was both brilliantly innovative and beautiful in its simplicity. —Charlie Woodman


59. Kanye West - The College Dropout59. Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004)

Thanks to hindsight, listening to Kanye West’s 2004 arrival The College Dropout is a multifaceted experience. Given his current status as an über-celebrity whose every move is scrutinized, it’s hard to picture him as a scrappy young blood fighting to carve out a space for himself in the pop landscape. Yet there he is, the chip on his shoulder already present but not nearly as large as it will grow to be. Also present is the music: soulful, arrogant, infectious, advanced, stimulating and personal. All the pieces were present from the outset. The College Dropout is the work of an emcee who refused to take no for an answer. —Drew Hunt


58. The Streets - Original Pirate Material58. The Streets – Original Pirate Material (2002)

A 23-year-old named Mike Skinner took it upon himself to push things forward, launching an entire scene, making a name for himself and merging his own brand of rap with breakbeat, garage and dubstep. He wasn’t just complaining: He was offering the solution. Original Pirate Material felt a little like being in a secret society. Someone would begin “Original pirate material, you’re listening to The Streets” and if the stranger didn’t answer, “Lock down your aerial,” they were obviously a wanker. —Taylor Cowan


57. NIN - The Downward Spiral57. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

Before The Downward Spiral made Trent Reznor into a god of industrial rock in the ’90s, he was just a hired hand at a recording studio who recorded demos at night. Under the moniker Nine Inch Nails, Reznor was the sole performer on 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine, a collection of ’80s dance-pop tunes fused with heavy metal guiatrs and Reznor’s trademark angry lyrics and vocals. It proved to be a winning formula, producing hit singles such as “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie.” The success of the album prompted the label to ask Reznor for more of the same. He refused, opting to shift to the more aggressive, heavy metal-based sound for which he became known. —Ralf Navarro


56. Lauryn Hill - Miseducation56. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

Former Fugees member Lauryn Hill distinguished herself with impressive rapping and lyrical skills that complimented her soulful singing voice. It wasn’t until her 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, that she was able to display the true range of her talents. From the rap-meets-Motown “Doo Wop (That Thing)” to the ode to her then-unborn son “To Zion,” Hill crafted an album that was both socially conscious and deeply personal. Perturbed by the success of her debut, Hill has all but given up performing and has yet to release a true followup. —Ralf Navarro


55. Royksopp - Melody AM55. Röyksopp – Melody A.M. (2001)

Under no circumstances is Melody A.M. a club banger; it’s music for the walk home, the daylight just beginning to break. From the hallowed, ancient tones of “So Easy,” to that damn earworm “Eppie,” it was a debut that conjured images of everything from the Northern Lights to cavemen walking down moving sidewalks (the beginning of an ill-fated Geico campaign). On “40 Years Back\Come” the warped guitar draws slivers of light from the empty space. “Everywhere I go/There’s always something to remind me/Of another place and time/Of a love that traveled far and found me.” Think of 2001; when you could count the number of people doing chill electronic well on one hand—the people doing Röyksopp well on one finger. —Taylor Cowan


54. Descendents - Milo Goes to College54. Descendents – Milo Goes to College (1982)

Descendents’ Milo Goes to College blazed onto the ’80s SoCal punk scene with sneering poppy hardcore style. The 22-minute album boasts 15 songs that focus on a range of issues relatable to a large portion of frustrated twenty-somethings in middle class America. Cheeky lyrics and Milo Aukerman’s “fuck you” performance style mixed with energetic drum beats and aggressive guitar work gave the album its reputation as one of the most significant during the ’80s SoCal hardcore punk movement. –Elizabeth Beyer


53. Wolf Parade - Apologies53. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

Apologies to the Queen Mary was reportedly named as such because the band felt bad about trashing a room on the ocean liner Queen Mary during a hectic séance. The story is appropriate, because that’s roughly what the album sounds like: a violently spiritual explosion. Apologies to the Queen Mary is an album full of emotion, either roaring with heartbreak or shrinking small and intimate with a softer sorrow. It is a dense album, one that demands a time investment on the part of the listener, but one with an eventual reward  that is immensely satisfying. —Charlie Woodman


52. Devo Q: Are We Not Men?52. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

Devo was a band decades ahead of its time. When the debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was released in 1978, nobody knew what to make of the transmuted new-wave quintet from Akron, Ohio. Through the years, Devo brought razor-sharp social commentary and an exposition of insurrectionary media shrewdness. Classic hot ticket songs like “Jocko Homo” and “Uncontrollable Urge” exemplify the band’s herky-jerky force. Devo also covered The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” The avant-garde robot funk sound took the song to a new level of obscurity. As with the band’s  continuous success, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a social mainstay in the music world today. —Aaron Pylinski


51. Op Ivy - Energy51. Operation Ivy – Energy (1989)

Operation Ivy’s debut and only full-length album, Energy, lives up to its title. The album delivers high-power gang vocals and upbeat ska influenced guitar work complemented by Matt Freeman’s unique use of bassline arpeggios. Jesse Michaels’ lyrics illustrated the lack of trust in mainstream culture felt by many and called for social justice. As a result, “Unity” and “Take Warning” became anthems for generations of like-minded punks. The 1989 release is considered one of the most influential albums in underground music. —Elizabeth Beyer


50. M.I.A. - Arular50. M.I.A. – Arular (2005)

Before “Paper Planes” made M.I.A. a household name, Arular was generating plenty of buzz among music fans and critics alike. Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam developed a  creative sound by blending hip-hop, reggae and electro with her Sri Lankan origins. In many ways, Arular is just as good as Kala. “Pull Up the People” and “Bucky Done Gun” make an unforgettable opening and “Galang” is a firecracker of a closer. Anybody listening for the first time wouldn’t be quite sure what they were hearing, but they could be sure it was worth their time. —Chris Favata


The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium49. The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)

Prog rock needed this album badly. Ever since the punk uprising of the late ’70s, prog’s bombastic, technical leanings were getting a bad rap, causing its best bands to turn away from their past only to make bigger fools of themselves in the pop world (Genesis, Yes). And sure, the ’90s saw the rise of prog metal and cheesy retro revival bands, but De-Loused in the Comatorium restored not only the components of prog rock, but the very essence of it: being progressive. Taking elements of punk, latin, free jazz, psychedelic rock, hard rock and more, The Mars Volta concocted something both fresh and exhilarating. —Chris Favata


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