From Novelist nodding towards the borough of Lewisham on his first full-length ‘Novelist Guy’, to Goat Girl and Shame spitting venom straight from south of the river, much of 2018 has been dominated by Londoners with an SE postcode. Beyond sharing the same local council, though, these bands couldn’t be any more varied, as as a whole this year has been more genre-blurring than ever.
Whether it’s Kali Uchis blurring the linguistic lines between English and Spanish, The Magic Gang bringing back barbershop sing-alongs, or Soccer Mommy combining some of the fiercest songwriting talent about with a strange, off-kilter handle on wit, the one thing all these debuts have in common is unpredictability.
As the year reaches its close, here are some of the very best debut albums leading the way in 2018.
1Shame – ‘Songs of Praise’
Taking its name from an incredible tame television show – which largely consists of baby-faced choirs singing angelic hallelujahs in churches around the country – Shame’s debut album stands in stark contrast. Ferocious, snarling, sarky and charged with a dark strain of wit, it’s a rare gift of a first record, setting the South London band strides ahead of their peers.
2Kali Uchis – ‘Isolation’
Featuring a staggering roll-call of guest appearances – Damon Albarn of Blur fame, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Odd Future rapper Tyler, The Creator, rising British R&B star Jorja Smith, and LA’s funk king Thundercat – Kali Uchis still emerges as the star of the show. Gliding effortlessly between genres, her honey-drenched vocal hinting towards everything from traditional jazz to the Spanish pop star Jeanette.
3Novelist – Novelist Guy
What NME said: “From the outset, the 21-year-old’s mantra-like lyrics hammer each song’s point home. “I only wanna live the honesty ting,” he says throughout the upbeat, frazzled opener ‘Start’ – and he goes on to prove it across the rest of the album. Every sentiment on ‘Novelist Guy’ is deeply felt.”
4Dream Wife – Dream Wife
5Soccer Mommy – Clean
What NME said: “The production trickery, paired with Allison’s lyrical nuances, make her songwriting, and this debut record, a dazzling and devastating triumph. Having established herself as one of America’s great young songwriters with this debut LP, Allison’s got the world at her feet – and we trust her to hit even harder next time around.”
6Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
The very definition of taking your time, Aussie band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever formed in 2013, but waited five years to release an album proper. Building on the promise of their two EPs ‘Talk Tight’ and ‘French Press’, ‘Hope Downs’ is a joy of a record; the limelight stolen by intricately-woven lines of meandering melody.
7The Magic Gang – ‘The Magic Gang’
What NME said: “Without stripping too much away from them, their songs could be from any era and still resonate whether you were listening in the ’60s, ’90s, or now. Their self-titled debut album is only proof of that – a timeless collection that packs in a ludicrous number of pop hooks.”
8Snail Mail – Lush
Lindsey Jordan’s raw promise is bolstered no end by the luscious production that elevates her unstoppable songwriting to the next level on ‘Lush’. The album also sees the Maryland talent embracing her new status as a guitar hero, channeling shades of Kurt Vile, Marnie Stern, and her former teacher Mary Timony.
9Matt Maltese – Bad Contestant
What NME said: “On ‘Bad Contestant’, the 21-year-old creates a stunning debut that is packed with wisdom beyond his tentative years, and lyrics filled with scathing humour at every turn… It’s an impressive and consistently varied effort.”
10Goat Girl – Goat Girl
Filled with murky surrealist imagery, and more than a hint of menace, Goat Girl’s self-titled debut is grubbier than the sticky backroom bar of their nearest South London local. Whether they’re taking down perverts on the train, or claiming to be a bunch of country sleazes, it’s a twisted slab of genius.
11Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy
What NME said: “Cardi B‘s story is enthralling and she knows it. “This some real-life fairytale Binderella shit,” she informs us on ‘Best Life’. It would be impossible to divorce her story from this debut album, because in a way, the story is the album. The Bronx rapper’s incredible ascent fuels every fabulously braggadocious bar.”
12Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People
Marrying the urgency of Le Tigre with Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem’s limb-possessing party spirit, Confidence Man’s ‘Confident Music For Confident People’ – as you’d perhap guess from the title – does not fuck about. “Put this record on, dance until sunrise, gurn through Brexit and rave until war is over,” NME wrote, reviewing the debut. “Now stop reading. Get the fuck down.”
13Boy Azooga – 1, 2, Kung Fu!
What NME said: ”Within 35 succinct minutes, Boy Azooga don’t hit one bum note. Bright, exciting and full of effortlessly intelligent songwriting, ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ is an absolute joy to listen to. Wickedly fun, and made to be played on festival stages this summer, it’s short glimpse into the musical landscape of [vocalist Davey] Newington’s mind – and one that we’re pretty bloody glad he shared.
14Middle Kids – Lost Friends
Sydney indie prospects Middle Kids have always had a knack for penning the sort of timeless songs that sound like immediate classics ‘Edge of Town’ and ‘Don’t Be Hiding’s Fleetwood Mac nodding harmonies wouldn’t sound out of place blaring out the radio in an era bygone, and as a whole, ‘Lost Friends’ is a treat.
15Bodega – ‘Endless Scroll’
What NME said: ‘Endless Scroll’ feels like a record torn between past and present. On the one hand, there’s that futuristic vibe; on the other, there’s Ben’s lyrics. Lashing out at modern society’s reliance on technology, it feels at points like he might be longing for a bygone era – one where that pure embrace of art and music is unencumbered by crowds glues mobile phones, and the instant gratification of streaming and social media.
16Leon Vynehall – ‘Nothing Is Still’
What NME said: “‘Nothing Is Still’ is a fluid, complete piece of electronic music that sways from thoughtful down-tempo beats to swelling pieces of orchestral beauty.”
17Ross From Friends – ‘Family Portrait’
What NME said: ‘Family Portrait’ paints a vibrant and touching picture of what dance music can mean to people.
18Tash Sultana – ‘Flow State’
The Australian artists debut is both glorious and conflicted – as funky rhythms clash with pop sensibilities and jazzy flashes, but all of which make for a truly unique and mind-bending listen.
19Pale Waves – ‘My Mind Makes Noises’
What NME said: Given that it documents a romantic life that’s apparently hurtling out of control, ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ makes for a remarkably trim and measured collection of songs. Both hands are on the wheel, and this album will crank things up a gear for Pale Waves.