Best of 2016 Playlist

July 23, 2015

Top 10 Debut Albums (2010-2014) Pt 1

Some bands have debut records that miss the mark. Then there are bands who release debut albums so put together, and well written that we wonder where they've been hiding or entire lives. Here are some of the best debuts that were released from 2010 to 2014. 
The albums aren't listed in any particular order (1 is not the top, 10 is not the bottom). Each entry is accompanied with a mini review and rating. Click the Top 10 page to see our honorable mentions for this list. Click this (link) to see Pt 2 of this list. 

Please keep in mind that I'm only one person, and can only listen to so many albums before my brain explodes. If you think there's a debut that I should listen to, please contact me at with the band and their album (for this list the album has to have been released between 2010 and 2014). 

I have excluded bands that were formed after a member's previous band broke up or bands with members who were has previous success in another group (i.e, Of Mice and Men, Beartooth, Falling in Reverse, the many, many Jonny Craig bands, etc). These are bands who are fresh off the rookie circuit, and are cutting their teeth with this release. EPs are off limits, as they are often not good representations of what a band is truly capable of (though there are always exceptions to the rule). 

       1. What Are You So Scared Of? - Tonight Alive (2011) -

This is one of my favorite albums, in addition to being one of the best debut albums. After a string of successful EPs and singles, the band first released their debut in their native AUS in 2011, then in the states and Europe in 2012 after signing to Fearless Records. Since their inception, the band has drawn numerous comparisons to fellow alt. rock champs Paramore. True they're both female fronted rock bands, and their styles are very similar, but when it comes down to the bare essentials the two bands couldn't be more different. Tonight Alive is an alternative rock band with pop punk/emo influences. The lead single, "Starlight", a catchy tune that propelled the band to the front of their field. Heavier songs like "Listening", the title track, and "Breaking and Entering" (one of the more technically interesting pieces from the debut) offer a little something extra. Their live performances only heighten the album's power. Softer numbers "Amelia" and "Safe and Sound" provide a chance for Jenna McDougall's vocals to shine. All in all, the album doesn't break any new ground, but they prove to be masters of their craft. And their sophomore release, "The Other Side" amazingly tops the debut. 

Rating - 7.5/10

       2. Ground Dweller - Hands Like Houses (2012)  

Fellow Aussies Hands Like Houses released their debut in 2012. The response was better than anything anyone could have imagined. Prior, the band had only released a handful of songs. With vocalist Trenton Woodley's powerful vocals leading the charge, and the band's tight rhythm section, HLH blew the minds of critics and fans alike with this album. Creating a post hardcore, alt. rock sound without any of the cliche breakdowns and unclean vocals, this album stood apart from all others in the 2012 year. Opening track "Antarctica" starts the album with a soft, synth intro. Woodley's vocals are quiet, and have minimal autotune added not as a way to mask his skills, but to enhance them. The chorus is energetic, and is an instant ear worm. "Don't Look Now, I'm Being Followed, Act Normal" may be a bit of a mouthful, but it's just as infectious as the opener. Fast forward to track 8, "Lion Skin feat. Tyler Carter and Jonny Craig" and you are greeted with a knockout collab between some of post hardcore's biggest names. The vocals blend seamlessly with Woodley's, almost to the point where if you didn't know there were featured vocalists, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. With pounding drums, high powered guitars and bass in the background, this a standout number. This is one of the best albums ever released, let alone one of the best debuts. 

Rating - 8.5/10

       3. White Noise - PVRIS (2014) 

Does this choice even need explaining? PVRIS bursted onto the music scene with little warning and shocked the world. Stints on Warped Tour propelled them to stardom, much like their idols Paramore. They exploded after their single, "St. Patrick", was released through Rise Records (also the first female fronted band ever signed to the label). The alt. rock, electronic trio aren't another crap pop group who are trying to copy the success of other electronic acts like VersaEmerge or Lights. They gave their songs a darker edge, but was still catchy as hell. Lynn Gunn's lyrics, vocals, and stage presence have paved the way for this band's success, and can only lead them to greater heights. Need we go on? Alright. "Fire" is a real standout for this album. It's a song that builds on itself. Many songs offer soft intros with drums or synths, but few catch the listener's attention like this number. "You're out of line. Buried yourself alive and expected to be fine" cranks the song from a 5 to a 50 in a few seconds, and then the band brings the song back down. Lynn's vocals take on a certain R&B, rap quality, but still retains her impressive singing range. A solid drum beat and a lively guitar riff only make this song that much better. You don't get much better than this album. The only thing I'm sad about is that it's as good as it is. Coming off a high like this, will the band be able to produce an album that's as good, if not better than this, or will PVRIS fall off their throne. 

Rating - 9/10

       4.  Satori - I the Mighty (2013) 

Another band that seemed to come out of nowhere, I the Mighty are a San Fransisco band that first grabbed attention with their 2012 EP, "Karma Never Sleeps". A year later and they release their first studio album through Equal Vision Records. Taking everything they accomplished with "Karma" they band takes their sound to the next level in their full length effort. A similar effort to HLH, the band creates a mix of progressive rock, indie, post hardcore, and pop. And while that sounds pretty crazy, it makes for one of the best debuts, and one of the best albums period. "Speak to Me" is hands down one of the heaviest songs the band has written. A mix of minimal unclean vocals and Brent Walsh's perfectly executed clean vocals, the song kicks this album off with a lot of energy. Second track "Failures" is just about 5 minutes long, but a masterpiece. Well written lyrics, a sublime chorus, this track is worth the time it takes to listen. One of my favorite tracks has to be "Artful Temptress (Paint Me Senseless)". A beautiful piece that contains well layered vocals, a slow and steady verse that breaks into a high octane chorus, and powerful guitar riffs from guitarist Ian Pedigo. I dare you to find an album as unique as this. 

Rating - 9/10

       5. Light Me Up - The Pretty Reckless (2010) 

Last, but not least, on part 1 of this Top 10 list is the debut from hard rock band The Pretty Reckless. Fronted by actress, model, and former child star Taylor Momsen, this was a serious departure from her acting career. Having built an acting resume around relatively PG roles, her position as front woman showcased a brand new side of Taylor no one saw coming. With leather jackets aplenty, a cigarette in hand, and some heavy eyeliner, Momsen brought the band to the forefront of the hard rock circuit. And she doesn't disappoint. Momsen's gritty voice matches the music to a T, and then some. Lead single "Make Me Wanna Die" opens with a quiet bit of synth before the guitar, bass, and kick drum start. Momsen's vocals are spot on, offering a somewhat vulnerable edge to the lyrics. She sounds like a vocalist twice her age (She was only 17 when the album was recorded and released), which is extremely impressive. This is a prime example of modern hard rock, and why the band is so successful. Second single, and my personal favorite track, "Miss Nothing" is the opposite of the lead. Where the latter is soft, and orchestral (very similar to some Evanescence tracks), this is powerful song that is driven by rhythms created by the guitar and drums. Simple chords, a catchy bass riff, and solid drum work combined with Momsen's vocals, you get a sure setlist staple, and one of the best songs of the year. Overall, the album is a cohesive collection of songs that will bring to mind Joan Jett, Halestorm, and at times even Nirvana you would be foolish to over look this album. Female hard rock has never sounded so good, well not since Halestorm's debut a year earlier. 

Rating - 8/10