Don’t ask how I’ve found the time to review eighty new albums during the first three months of 2013. I’ve written about albums that have gained high acclaim across multiple publications, anticipated albums from proven acts and EPs generating buzz throughout the blogosphere. Instead of handpicking my top ten favourites, I thought I’d create a riskier time vault and discuss ten of the most intriguing debuts with potentially bright futures.
1. California X – California X
Aside from the obvious Dinosaur Jr sludge rock comparisons from same origins of Amherst, Massachusetts, California X is one of the few bands on tour who successfully blend radio-friendly song structures into the corners of dirtier grunge rock. They compound bright guitar riffs with Japandroid’s consistently positive energy and the technical ability of earlier Mastodon. Once Lemmy Gurtowsky’s vocals grow in confidence, the four piece could find themselves primed for a larger breakout on their sophomore release.
2. Doldrums – Lesser Evil
Another product of Montreal’s DIY scene, which has produced Grimes and Purity Ring, Lesser Evil may be the most successfully ambitious debut of its class. Airick Woodhead may be only be scratching the surface of his broad sonic territory with this one. While the other two acts struck more gold on hit singles, Doldrums opened the door far wider for future growth, with elements of exciting unpredictability.
All he needs now is time on the road with his band to perfect his craft and learn to incorporate a larger range of frequencies.
3. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
Hailing from Leeds, this five-piece band may have the smallest online following on this list, but according to some sources it has the highest reviewer aggregate score of them all.
The only major knit-picking issue I had with this debut album was its structure, as the tracks’ impact decrease as it progresses. Other than that, Pearl Mystic is a blasting spaceship set for the unknown of the psychedelic universe.
Before they begin work on album number two, I have them on my bucket list of bands to see play live in 2013.
4. Jacco Gardner – Cabinet Of Curiosities
Cabinet Of Curiosities is the least immediately hitting album here because it’s so tightly consistent. Actually, it’s the most consistent on this list – the sign of an act who hasn’t learnt to write a poor song yet.
The very strong Trouble In Minds Records (watch out for Mikal Cronin later this year) knew what they were doing signing this multi-instrumentalist from the Netherlands, who could fit comfortably on your vinyl shelf or iTunes library between Foxygen and James Pants.
On ‘Puppets Dangling’ for example, he hints at Peter Bjorn and John’s pop writing potential.
Guess we will have to wait for the sequel to find out.
5. Jim James – Regions Of Light And Sound
Normally I wouldn’t classify somebody who, since 1999, has released six albums with a band as someone with intriguing potential, however the thirty-five year-old lead singer of My Morning Jacket released the remarkably impressive solo debut, Regions Of Light And Sound.
I’ve stated before that my issue with My Morning Jacket is never from a technical standpoint, but rather that they never come across universally convincing in their directional decisions. This escape from restraint has done Jim James wonders here.
It may be a slightly front-loaded album, with two of the classiest tracks of the year, ‘Know Til Now’ and ‘A New Life’, early on in the piece, but the ceiling is so surprisingly high on these two tracks that it’s led my mind to wonder if Jim James may end up being more commonly known for his solo work than for his band’s career.
6. Night Beds – Country Sleep
Night Beds is a nice reminder that not all the music from Nashville, Tennessee is generic country rock.
Matthew Wilcox’s vocals may be the finest debuting harmonics so far this year. Fortunately for him the rest of the band doesn’t let him down and they come across as a very tight group on this album and during the brief interviews I’ve stumbled across. I’m not saying they’re the next The Rolling Stones or U2, but they share the same bonding unity, a feature often understated in determining the longevity of every new band.
7. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
This was floating around on the lead singer Andrew Savage’s label Dull Tools late last year, but thankfully What’s Your Rupture? label re-issued it this year to a far larger audience, therefore adding it to the touring debut class of 2013.
It’s easy to come off as lazy and uninspired in slacker rock roots, but Parquet Courts embrace it with a wit and humour that’s hard to undermine. ‘Stoned and Starving’ has already become a theme song for those who’ve been there before. Overall Light Up Gold is too clever to not have more tricks hidden up its sleeve the next time around.
8. Rhye – Woman
While all the artists on this list have untapped potential in their chosen genres, they are all limited in one way or another as to how broad an audience they may reach, however Rhye is an exception. They have a rare (Sade influenced) sound that could be heard on a AM radio station at the same time as triple j.
After only joining forces last year, once they’ve had a year or two gelling together and expanding their arrangements, and the already anticipated follow up could be a classic modern cross-over album, elevating them to a festival headliner status.
9. Torres – Torres
Torres is another Nashville songwriter that allowed me to notice that none of the acts on this list stem from New York, the “heart of the current music industry”.
While I have a couple issues with this debut, I can understand why this twenty-two-year-old (the youngest on the list) is drawing praise across the internet.
Tracks like ‘Honey’ would secretly make PJ Harvey or Sharon Van Etten jealous that they didn’t obtain such poise and craftsmanship at Mackenzie Scott’s young age.
The fact that she self-released this entire album is encouraging enough, and she may only need just a little outside help to pull all the promising pieces together on the next full length release.
10. Walrii – Weaver EP
Finally an Australian artist, and while it’s only an EP, even from an international standpoint, it’s a very promising debut in amidst Australia’s obsession with post-Flume beat makers.
Walrii doesn’t just cut and paste sampled layers, he constructs heterogeneous sounds from the ground up.
If he can add a soulful female singer (Nkechi Anele from Melbourne’s Saskwatch perhaps) to his full-length debut album, he may just take off internationally and become a pivotal turning point in evolving Australia’s music scene.