2011 was a year of momentous musical debuts. Some of them (Hack, cough, Odd Future) we’re all a little sick of hearing about. But there were even more that flew under the radar while still making an impact. We made this list of the most exciting first albums we heard this year to celebrate both.
Some of these 20 upstarts released hotly anticipated albums that lived on everyone’s playlist for months. Some others we are willing to bet you didn’t hear — but they blew our minds and we can’t the thought of them falling though the cracks.
If you feel we’ve made any glaring errors or omissions here, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear who your favorite new artists are. But first, see which newcomers made the cut with us. In no real order:
20. Tadzio, S/T
We heard a few tracks by this maniacal hardcore punk band earlier in the year and had to get our hands on the Sendai, Japan duo’s debut. It took some doing but it was totally worth it. From out of nowhere, Tadzio’s Leader and Bucho emerged with one of the year’s funnest, most original, and most chaotic albums. Fans of Mika Miko, Afrirampo, or Las Kellies should really track them down.
19. Born Gold, Bodysongs:
Not to brag, but we were down with the art-damaged electropop ways of Born Gold way back in 2010 when they were called Gobble Gobble. Their frenetic Adderall-pop stylings came into full flower this year with their first LP Bodysongs and we felt super proud. Their nonsensically confrontational jams like “Decimate Everything” left us delightfully overstimulated.
18. Zakee, Assimilations:
Vocalist and producer Zakee stepped out boldly this year with Assimilations, a truly stateless future pop release replete with inventive polyrhythms, achingly sweet vocals, and warm, steamy production. It’s not sauna steamy though, the feel is more like mist rising at the dawn of a bright sunny day. It’s the Africa inspired album album we’ve been waiting for, the one that can make us really believe that Africa is the Future. Check “Glory.”
17. Ghostpoet, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam:
Our mouths water for Ghostpoet’s Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, even though we’re still not sure what to call it. Lo-fi indie rap? Post-grime? He flows like a very talented sleep talker over an ever shifting and dimly lit electronic landscape. Whatever it is, we’ll still be bobbing our heads to it this time next year, especially “Survive It.”
16. Unquote, Reverberation Box:
Saint Petersburg beatmaker Unquote took drum and bass to a soulful, ambient place this year. His album, Reverberation Box, in turn brought us into a womb-like world of deep grooves and spiritual consolation. Actually, he touched on all the recent trends in electronic music, dubstep included … and by “touched on” we mean “gently had his way with them one by one.” This proves we all really need to stay on top of the Russian beat making scene, and especially Mr. Unquote.