The best debut albums of 2016

NME's cream of 2016's debut albums

If the top end of many end-of-year album lists hailed 2016 as a prime year for cutting-edge rap and pop, isolating the best debut albums tells a slightly different story. Here, the roots of a guitar resurgence appear to be sprouting amongst the electronica, hip-hop, post-post-neo-soul and scary haunted twins music. Here, in no particular order, are NME’s favourite debuts of 2016…


Christine & The Queens, ‘Chaleur Humaine’




NME said: “In writing about subjects like queerness and gender identity from a perennial outsiders’ perspective, Héloïse Letissier struck a strangely universal chord – who couldn’t root for, or relate to, a ferociously talented young woman celebrating her own individuality? She was the pop star we needed, but scarcely deserved.”


Kaytranada, ’99.9%’




NME said: “Canadian producer Louis Kevin Celestin’s magical hip-hop and house infused debut touched on everything from J Dilla to old school disco, and also featured the best thing Craig David had done since ‘Born To Do It’ in the shape of the ultra-smooth ‘Got It Good’.


Sunflower Bean, ‘Human Ceremony’



NME said: “They fuse Led Zeppelin’s raunchy riffs with the blissful mid-’80s indie of Felt, the best bits of ’80s alt-pop (The Cure) and krautrock (Neu!) and, in front-duo Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen, have the kind of boy-girl chemistry last seen in the White Stripes.”


Public Access TV, ‘Never Enough’



NME said: “Whereas many of their contemporaries appear either ashamed or incapable of writing a killer chorus, each of PATV’s songs take, on average, about 40 seconds to reach their first one – and from the Cars-y after-hours sleaze of ‘Evil Twin’ to the boisterous swagger of ‘In Love And Alone’, it’s easy to imagine any of them being singles.”


Oscar, ‘Cut And Paste’



NME said: “Oscar’s brand of guitar pop has been compared to Blur and – closer to the mark – Elastica. The 24-year-old former art school student earns those comparisons across this 10-track E-number rush of an album, which fizzes and pops like a mouthful of Sherbet Dip Dab and Cherry Coke.”


Blossoms, ‘Blossoms’



NME said: “Enter Stockport five-piece Blossoms – this year’s biggest guitar-pop shooting stars, named after a pub and looking like snake-hipped garage rockers from the wrong side of Scarysex Central – occasionally sounding like Ellie Goulding. But ultimately, they leap from their chart-bound Trojan horse as modernist rock heroes.”


Nao, ‘For All We Know’



NME said: “Nao’s real flair lies in embracing the old school and making it seem fresh. ‘Get To Know Ya’ and ‘DYWM’ both re-rub late ’80s soul and push it firmly into 2016 with crisp production and an effortless dancefloor feeling. More proof, if it were needed, that Nao – and her odd but addictive vocal – belongs up front.”


Margo Price, ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’



NME said: “Liver of the kind of hardscrabble life worthy of a Loretta Lynn lyric, Tennessee’s Margo Price channeled it into an album in thrall to the sound and feel of old-school Nashville, but done so brilliantly it fell far short of being pastiche.”


Let’s Eat Grandma, ‘I, Gemini’



NME said: “While their pop sensibilities are clear, the music is surreal and dense, with guitar, synthesiser, saxophone, glockenspiel, recorder and vocals that lurch from sugary to shouty. But exploration of ‘I, Gemini’ reveals its quirks are knitted together with extreme smoothness.”


Swet Shop Boys, ‘Cashmere’



NME said: “Proving political records could be fun as fuck, Swet Shop Boys – aka rappers Heems and Riz MC – interwove banging South Asian samples with witty rhymes about racism, drone strikes and cultural diaspora.”


Soft Hair, ‘Soft Hair’



NME said: “Recorded in patches across Europe and New Zealand, the eight songs here don’t so much start and stop as undulate like the chest of someone in a deep sleep.”


Whitney, ‘Light Upon The Lake’



NME said: “All 10 tracks on ‘Light Upon The Lake’ share a serene, peaceful bond, but when Whitney allow themselves to kick it up a gear and really let rip, as on ‘Golden Days’ (with its cathartic “Na na na” outro) or the George Harrison-meets-The Band magnificence of ‘Dave’s Song’, they’re untouchable.”


The Lemon Twigs, ‘Do Hollywood’



NME said: “On much of ‘Do Hollywood’, there’s a lineage that recalls the A-list of North America’s recent cult music heroes. But The Lemon Twigs’ sheer musical knowledge, and willingness to incorporate it into their own sound, means they’re in a different stratosphere altogether.”


Show Me The Body, ‘Body War’



NME said: “It’s completely thrilling, and while nothing like it musically, ‘Body War’ is surely the most New York ‘sounding’ album since The Strokes appeared full of inner-city rage some 15 years ago with ‘Is This It’.”

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