Who are some artists that peaked with their first album?
July 26, 2018 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a playlist of artists whose first albums were their (arguably) best ones in the context of their whole work. Help me!

I have a group of friends that gets together regularly for dinners and games, etc. We have started on a mission of listening to full albums from artists whose first albums are, in our humble opinions, their best work. Our one rule is: The person/group has to have released at least three full traditional-length albums. For example, I happen to think that the Sugarcubes, Pixies, Sinead O'Connor and Spiritualized all did their best work on their first albums. Of course this is all subjective, and it has led to some great conversations with the group. Help me broaden our horizons! Any genre is good as long as the album fits the criteria.
posted by archimago to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (77 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Stone Roses
posted by cakelite at 5:02 AM on July 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


The Strokes, Is This It.

Just comparing the length and content of the Wikipedia articles on their first three albums makes this a pretty unimpeachable claim from a sales/critical reception/endurance point of view.
posted by damayanti at 5:09 AM on July 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


Weezer, though that's very debatable
Bloc Party
Violent Femmes
Wu-Tang Clan
Jay-Z (debatable)
Nas

There's a lot of overlap with "best debut albums" lists, though there are plenty of bands with great debuts and better albums later.
posted by papayaninja at 5:19 AM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Counting Crows, August and Everything After
posted by aclevername at 5:19 AM on July 26, 2018 [16 favorites]


The Arctic Monkeys
posted by jontyjago at 5:24 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jimi Hendrix Experience
Guns N' Roses
Stone Temple Pilots (maybe)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:28 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Guns n Roses
Smashing Pumpkins
Arcade Fire
Pearl Jam
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
posted by booooooze at 5:34 AM on July 26, 2018


Afghan Whigs (Up in It is their first LP; the preceding one is an EP.)
posted by scratch at 5:34 AM on July 26, 2018


Presidents of the United States of America

(the band, although there's some arguments to be made that of the actual presidents of the United States, the peak was Washington, but I digress)
posted by General Malaise at 5:43 AM on July 26, 2018


Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights
posted by breakin' the law at 5:47 AM on July 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


Gomez
Oasis (not everyone will agree with me on this one)
The Streets
posted by jontyjago at 5:59 AM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Danzig
Van Halen
posted by doctord at 6:01 AM on July 26, 2018


Boston
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:01 AM on July 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Jimi Hendrix Experience

C'mon, that was his singles collection (after the fact). Apotheosis was achieved with Electric Ladyland
posted by Chitownfats at 6:02 AM on July 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Mike Oldfield
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:20 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


The Cyrcle. Two hits, both on their first album.
posted by ubiquity at 6:22 AM on July 26, 2018


B-52's
posted by bitslayer at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Television - Marquee Moon
posted by mean square error at 6:29 AM on July 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


De La Soul
posted by misteraitch at 6:30 AM on July 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I could write a list of 50 or so, but I'm pretty sure most people would disagree with all or most of them.
Having said that, here's a few:

The Shins (Oh, Inverted World)
Grandaddy (Under the Western Freeway)
Sparklehorse (Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot)
posted by pipeski at 6:31 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Arcade Fire (first LP, not EP)
Le Tigre
posted by Automocar at 6:37 AM on July 26, 2018


The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers
(though, for the three-album rule, defining the artist "The Modern Lovers" vs. the artist "Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers" is somewhat complicated)
posted by mean square error at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ride (Nowhere)
The Verve (A Storm in Heaven)
The Doors (The Doors)
posted by freya_lamb at 6:43 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Franz Ferdinand
Curve - Doppelganger
Medicine - Shot Forth Self Living
Ride - Nowhere
Happy Mondays - Bummed
The xx
Ash - 1977
Air - Moon Safari
Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Saint Etienne - Foxbase Alpha
Royksopp - Melody A.M.
Coldplay - Parachutes
Crystal Castles
Mission of Burma - Vs.
iLiKETRAiNS - Elegies to Lessons Learnt
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music from the Penguin Cafe
posted by lmfsilva at 6:51 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


REM
posted by implied_otter at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Alanis Morissette
Jewel
Coldplay
The Cranberries
posted by honeybee413 at 7:16 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Cars absolutely belong on this list.
posted by saladin at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary is a few notches above their subsequent LPs.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:26 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Definitely also The Pharcyde.

Also arguably Mogwai and Pavement and Roxy Music.
posted by saladin at 7:33 AM on July 26, 2018


Lisa Loeb
posted by xylothek at 7:33 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Tracy Chapman
posted by mark k at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Some old hip hop favourites:

EPMD
Eric B & Rakim
Schoolly D
Boogie Down Productions
posted by Kosmob0t at 7:52 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Although they did good work later, their first albums were game changers:
Liz Phair
Tori Amos
Soul Coughing
Black Crowes

(why yes I was in college in the early 90s why do you ask)
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:00 AM on July 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


Franz Ferdinand
Gang of Four
Nine Inch Nails (YMMV on this one, but Pretty Hate Machine is my favorite thing Trent's ever done.)
Suicide
posted by SansPoint at 8:09 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Mars Volta
posted by castlebravo at 8:26 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Justice
posted by capricorn at 8:26 AM on July 26, 2018


Mass Romantic is still the best by the New Pornographers, although they have a high standard since.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:29 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Big Top Halloween by the Afghan Whigs was an LP, not an EP
posted by TwilightKid at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2018


Snoop (Doggy) Dogg - Doggystyle
posted by elsietheeel at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2018


Portishead.
posted by misteraitch at 9:09 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Joe Jackson - Look Sharp
Wire - Pink Flag
The Smiths - The Smiths (probably gonna catch some flack for this one)
Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction
posted by degoao at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2018


The Dream Syndicate
The Roches
R.E.M.
Os Mutantes
The Pretenders
posted by hydrophonic at 9:27 AM on July 26, 2018


Seconding Pearl Jam (though Vs. was pretty great too!).
posted by bookworm4125 at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2018


The early 1980's saw a surge in Boston-area bands who got signed quickly, given expensive studio time and they produced some amazing albums. Unfortunately, a massive cull of A&R people saw these bands get terrible production for their subsequent albums, so their first albums were their best:

'til Tuesday
Face to Face
Mission of Burma
Lemonheads
Pixies (arguably)
Human Sexual Response
Lizzie Borden
Gang Green
The Neats
Throwing Muses
Del Fuegos

(and I will get fighty over Pearl Jam's first album being their best. Heresy.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:48 AM on July 26, 2018


The Clash.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2018


GnR
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Hootie and the Blowfish
Blind Melon
Skid Row
posted by raider at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree with this:

Ride (Nowhere)
The Verve (A Storm in Heaven)


A Storm in Heaven blew me away when I first heard it. I found it in the library at CFUV, where I was volunteering back in 1994. Mind-altering. Nick McCabe was everything to that band.
posted by JamesBay at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2018


Liz Phair.
posted by Smearcase at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2018


Son Volt - Trace
posted by Quonab at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2018


Chrysostom: The Clash.

Boy, I don't know about that. Their debut album is a great one, but I sure wouldn't say it's better than what they did a few years later. Generally speaking, I'd consider "London Calling" one of the great albums of all time in the entire broad genre of "rock," whereas "The Clash" is one of the all-time great albums in the narrower sub-genre of "punk rock" but probably doesn't have the same stature as "London Calling" in the broad genre.
posted by slkinsey at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Cakelite: The Stone Roses

Only had two albums though (unless we count Garage Flower, but then that would be their first and certainly isn't their best. Why yes, I am an indie kid who was 17 in 1989)....

Going through my most-played artists:

Ramones, Ramones
Eels, Electo-Shock Blues (maybe; but then it wasn't E's first album so maybe doesn't count)
The Jesus & Mary Chain, Psychocandy
Mogwai, Mogwai Young Team
Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
The Smiths, The Smiths
The Chills, Brave Words
Noah and the Whale, Peaceful the World Lays Me Down
Patti Smith, Horses

(Don't agree with Spiritualized or New Pornographers, but can see the argument)
posted by Pink Frost at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Interpol
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2018


(Don't agree with Spiritualized or New Pornographers, but can see the argument)

There are, broadly, three categories of artist in this thread. There are those for whom the first album is the best and then they dropped off in a big way after that (Interpol, MGMT). There are artists for whom the first album was clearly the masterpiece but they did plenty of good work after that (Wu-Tang Clan, Air). Then there are artists for whom the first album is in the conversation for the best one but it's highly debatable (REM, New Pornographers).

There's also a weird sub-category of bands that dropped off after two albums. (Oasis...I'd put Arcade Fire and The Strokes here, too, but I'm not sure how popular that opinion is...I think I like Room on Fire more than the consensus, and The Suburbs less.)

I'd guess this observation is a little off-topic but maybe some discussion fodder.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:52 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Of the previous responses

Agree, first albums are the best:
Interpol
Bloc Party
The Strokes
Counting Crows
MGMT
The xx

Disagree, there are other albums stronger than the first:
The Verve
Arctic Monkeys
The Smiths
GnR
Tori Amos

Portishead could go either way.

Others that I have not yet seen listed:
50 cent
Lady Gaga
Paula Abdul
New Order
posted by seesom at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2018


slkinsey: "Boy, I don't know about that."

Oh yeah, I know my opinion is not universally shared!
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 PM on July 26, 2018


Wilson Phillips
Britney Spears
Weezer
Christina Aguilera
Primus
Janes Addiction
Bon Jovi
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Britney Spears.
The Velvet Underground.
posted by kerf at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2018


I have a weird example of this. Jack Logan put out an absolutely incredible first album called Bulk, which was pieced together from a ton of tapes he gave a record label guy. Nothing he has released after that is even close.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:09 PM on July 26, 2018


Ace of Base!
posted by chaiwawa at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2018


(Not defending Bon Jovi on any level, just pointing out that Slippery When Wet was their second release)
posted by raider at 3:58 PM on July 26, 2018


Jewel
posted by raider at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Band - Music From the Big Pink
Michelle Shocked - Short Sharp Shocked
The Pretenders
posted by octothorpe at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am being pedantic here, but there are a couple of these identified as first albums that are not - I agree that Michelle Shocked's Short Sharp Shocked was her best, but it was her second (Texas Campfire Tapes was the first). Frightened Rabbit's Midnight Organ Fight was also their second (the first was Sing the Greys). (While it is definitely one of my favourites, can't quite say it's their best.)

Others:
Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
Broods - Evergreen

also I must be the only person who likes the xx's second album better than their first
posted by Athanassiel at 6:03 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thinking of English late 70s/early 80s punk/post-punk: applies to everyone in this genre. I can't think of a second/third record by any of my fave artists that I liked better.
posted by ovvl at 6:09 PM on July 26, 2018


Joy Division
DEVO (very arguably, depending on how you feel about synths replacing guitars)
posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 PM on July 26, 2018


Arctic Monkeys and REM are very debatable, because for both bands later albums got more critical acclaim, sold better, had more chart activity etc. My personal favorite for each is about 15 years into each band's career.

for the list:

DJ Shadow
Mos Def
The Sundays
Doves
Coldplay
Jeff Buckley (sadly)
Counting Crows (as mentioned above, just seconding it)
Seal
Audioslave
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:29 PM on July 26, 2018


I agree on Interpol, Wolf Parade, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Strokes, Air, Noah and the Whale, and maybe The New Pornographers, although they have a few strong albums.

I'd add:
Hey Marseilles
Rural Alberta Advantage
Los Campesinos!
Fanfarlo
Kings of Convenience
Passion Pit
Math and Physics Club
The Head and the Heart
Mason Jennings
Pete Yorn
Band of Horses
The Go! Team

Maybe more controversial, but I'd also say Ben Folds Five and Bon Iver.
posted by cholstro at 8:32 PM on July 26, 2018


Get The Knack - The Knack
Look Sharp - Joe Jackson
My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello
The Pretenders - The Pretenders
Lloyd Cole - Lloyd Cole
I'm sure there are many more if I do some digging
posted by drinkmaildave at 10:01 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that My Aim Is True is clearly better than This Year's Model.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:26 PM on July 26, 2018


Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (cheating, only had one album)
Arrested Development
Portishead
Peter Gabriel*
Dire Straits*
Sinead O'Conner
Nine Inch Nails
Squirrel Nut Zippers*
Sage Francis*
Suicidal Tendencies

* Not everyone would agree that their first was their best
posted by el io at 12:04 AM on July 27, 2018


Agreeing with the B 52s, the Pixies, the Cars, and Stone Roses.

Adding:
Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker [his first solo - but after a bunch of good band albums with Whiskytown]
Neneh Cherry, Raw like sushi
Cyndi Lauper, She's so unusual
Vampire Weekend, ST
Violent Femmes, ST
posted by yesbut at 4:12 AM on July 27, 2018


slkinsey: "Boy, I don't know about that."

Chrysostom : Oh yeah, I know my opinion is not universally shared!


I do think there are a lot of punk fans who were gravely disappointed The Clash didn't dig deeper into that genre following the brilliance of their debut album. And so, while your opinion may not be universally shared, I do think it's shared by many of us who were into the punk scene from the late 70s into the mid 80s.
posted by slkinsey at 5:49 AM on July 27, 2018


I feel disloyal saying it, and she had two great albums not just one, but Laura Nyro.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2018


Crosby, Stills and Nash
posted by MinPin at 12:20 PM on July 27, 2018


I agree that Michelle Shocked's Short Sharp Shocked was her best, but it was her second (Texas Campfire Tapes was the first).

I didn't count the Campfire Tapes because I thought that they were only a bootleg release until after Short Sharp Shocked was a hit.
posted by octothorpe at 12:52 PM on July 27, 2018


The Go-Gos
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:03 PM on July 27, 2018


Seconding Arctic Monkeys and the Wu.

I’d add Kano, and Konono No. 1.
posted by Kreiger at 6:10 PM on July 29, 2018


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