Each decade is defined by its music, and the bands that dominated the music scene; the 60s was the Beatles, 70s was Led Zeppelin, 80s was The Smiths, 90s was Oasis (or was it Blur?) and then you get to the 21st century. Whilst pop music kind of became the mainstream, given the rise of shows like X-Factor, rock music has never been stronger. Whilst most of us wish we were around in the 90s (let’s be honest) for the vibrant grungy Britpop scene, the last 16 years have seen some incredible bands emerge; this list rounds up the top ten debut albums so from this century.
- My Love is Cool, Wolf Alice (2015)
Wolf Alice are definitely the most exciting grunge rock band to come out of the UK in years. Their debut, ‘My Love is Cool’, released just last year has resulted in instant fame for the four-piece band from London. Ellie, Joel, Joff and Theo make up the crazy, rowdy glittery band with fans who are head over heels in love with them. Fronted by Ellie Rowsell, with her oversized black clothing and messy dyed blond hair, the band bring a new sense of energy and intensity to the music industry. Originally an acoustic band, they quickly ditched this and burst into the rock scene with a brand new edgy sound and look. With a sell-out tour UK tour coming up, as well as a host of US dates with Slaves supporting, and a Grammy nomination, Brit nomination, and Mercury Prize nomination behind them, the band are only at the start. The album is full of a variety of experimental sounds and genres; from the melancholy haunting tracks like ‘Turn to Dust’ and ‘Soapy Water’ where Ellie softly whispers ‘If life is easy what is this?’, it’s also full of heavy grunge tracks too, like ‘Giant Peach’ and ‘You’re a Germ.’
Top tracks on the album include ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Your Loves Whore’
- Inside in / Inside out, The Kooks (2006)
One of indie-rock’s finest, The Kooks released their brilliant debut album just over a decade ago and it’s full of brilliant cutting edge rock tracks. A mix of heavy music and softer more acoustic stuff, the band displayed their potential in a variety of styles and genres in their album ‘Inside In/ Inside Out.’ Although their newer stuff is well received at gigs, the fans always go crazy for their early stuff, especially huge crowd pleasers ‘Ooh La’ and ‘Naïve.’ As mentioned, a variety of styles are explored; there are some beautiful soft tracks like ‘Seaside’ where Luke sings ‘I’m just trying to love you, in any kind of way…’ As well as that, heavy rock tracks with catchy rhythmic guitar riffs fill the album too, most notably ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and ‘See the World.’ Luke’s voice is insanely good too; it’s raspy and has a proper cutting indie edge to it, which adds to the intensity of tracks like ‘She Moves in her Own Way.’ Since then, the band have released 4 other albums but each time they play gigs they always make sure to play a large chunk of their early music. The casual album cover and the witty tongue in cheek lyrics make it clear that the band were just a group of mates who made an album, and a bloody brilliant album it is too.
Top tracks include ‘Eddie’s Gun’ and ‘Ooh La’
- Employment, Kaiser Chiefs (2005)
The mid 2000s were a brilliantly exciting time for British music, especially for indie rock. And one of the most exciting guitar rock bands at this time were post punk Leeds rockers Kaiser Chiefs. ‘Employment’ brought together all the things that rock bands want to encompass in a debut; catchy intricate guitar riffs, vivid imaginative lyrics, and a sense of fun and humour. Tracks like ‘Na Na Na Na Naa’ and ‘Oh My God’ are the popular well knows ones which always get screamed back at festivals and gigs, but there are some wild hidden tracks on the album too like ‘Born to be a Dancer’ and ‘What Did I Ever Give You?’ Ricky’s witty lyrics draw on the reality of post 90s life for young people in the UK. Rather than glamorising and amplifying this image, the band simply say it like it is, talking about how ‘girls scrabble round with no clothes on, to borrow a pound for a condom’ and getting sick and disgusted by boring cliché relationships. The fun guitar sound really brought an element of creativity and excitement back to British music, which was just what we needed.
Top tracks include ‘I Predict a Riot’ and ‘Oh My God.’
- Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2004)
Franz Ferdinand (aka Scotland’s finest rock band) emerged in 2002 to drop their killer indie rock post punk debut album two years later in February 2004. The band are said to be responsible for bringing post punk indie music back, alongside fellow northern bands Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys. Nominated for a Grammy and Mercury Prize (which it naturally won,) the catchy guitar riffs which will stay stuck in your head for days and heavy vocals propelled the band’s debut to the top of the charts. The album is dark and vivid, with a simple name and simple artwork, but complex intricate tracks with heavy guitar lines, complex drum patterns, and poetic lyrics. The album is generally a heavy rock album, but does feature softer tracks like ‘40”,’ which really exposes and shows off Alex’ vocals. The debut marked the middle of the indie rock revival, as it was sandwiched in between The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys; full of captivating lyrics like ‘you see her, you can’t touch her’ (‘Auf Achse’) and ‘you are the latest adventure, you’re an emotion avenger’ (‘Darts of Pleasure,) the album, brings together poetic intricate lyrics and famous guitar riffs, such as the famous one from ‘Take Me Out.’ No wonder the album reached the top 5 in the charts (made it to no. 3 actually) and went on to sell over 3.6 million copies worldwide. The Scottish band revitalised indie rock, and made the genre fresh, new and invigorating.
Top tracks include ‘Tell Her Tonight’ and ‘The Dark of the Matinée’
- Up the Bracket, The Libertines (2002)
Coming in at number six is ‘Up the Bracket,’ the stellar debut album by hardcode indie rockers The Libertines; a musical masterpiece, the album is easily one of the top albums of the 2000s. Carl, Pete, Gary and John formed in London in the late 90s, and released their debut in 2002, seeing it eagerly snatched up by young rock fans. The album is full of poetic lyrical lines, written by Carl and Pete, who as song writers are like Lennon-McCartney. Tracks such as ‘I Get Along,’ ‘Time for Heroes’ and ‘Horrorshow’ are punchy and energetic, featuring Gary’s skilled drumming and an array of heavy guitar riffs and lines. The lyrics are poetically stunning too, with an element of light heartedness and wit to them too; the lyrics capture the listener each time, and it always feels like the first time listening to it even if it’s your hundredth. Lyrics like ‘he drinks and smokes his cares away, his heart is in the lonely way’ (‘Tell The King’) and ‘the poor dancing girl, she won’t dance again’ (‘Radio America’) are particularly memorable and evocative. The riffs are so popular too, that at their sweaty messy gigs the fans scream back the guitar notes as well as the lyrics, which truly is the mark of a good band.
Top tracks include ‘The Good Old Days’ and ‘Up The Bracket’
- Are You Satisfied? Slaves (2015)
British rock music has always had a rough undertone to it, especially given the anarchic revolutionary punk scene from the 70s, with bands like The Clash, The Boomtown Rats, Sham 69 and the Sex pistols. And Slaves’ raw gritty debut in 2015 has shown that punk/ grime music is needed more than ever. Rough grime vocalist and drummer Isaac Holman and the heavily tattooed guitarist Laurie Vincent come from Kent, and have gone from playing small pubs to selling out venues like the O2 Forum in London. Despite the fact they already had an EP out (‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ full of savage tracks like ‘Suicide’ and ‘Black Rose,’) 2015’s ‘Are you Satisfied?’ is officially their first album, and resulted in a Mercury Prize Nomination for the band (which they really should have won.) The singles from the album, ‘The Hunter,’ ‘Hey,’ ‘Cheer up London,’ and ‘Sockets’ are full of heavy intense riffs from Laurie, paired with Isaac’s aggressive drumming and raw screamy fierce vocals. The album does have two moderately slow tracks (‘Are you Satisfied?’ and ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’) but even these have harsh lyrics like ‘try to talk, but they have cut out your tongue. How will you fight back with no hands? Bones are broken so you can’t run.’ Punk grime at its finest.
Top tracks on the album include ‘Wow!!!7am’ (perfect for alarms) and ‘Hey’
- Royal Blood, Royal Blood (2014)
Royal Blood’s heavy killer debut album shook 2014, and earned them a Brit award the following year for Best British Band, presented by none other than rock legend Jimmy Page. The band have since gone on to play the main stage at Reading & Leeds festival as well as support Foo Fighters on their tour, having already played to thousands supporting Arctic Monkeys at Finsbury Park back in 2014. The set-up of the band is what intrigues their listeners most it seems; Mike plays bass guitar and sings, whilst Ben plays drums, and the tracks they produce are insane. Intense, killer guitar riffs in tracks like ‘Out of the Black’ and ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ paired with Ben’s heavy smashing on the drums make for a fiery aggressively electric album. Mike’s lyrics are poetic though, with a sharp cutting edge, most notably lines such as ‘I went to church and stopped believing’, ‘you say you’ve got nothing, so come out and get some’ and ‘I’ve got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it.’ The ferocious hard-core nature of this garage rock album proves why the Brighton two piece have support from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane, Dave Grohl and Jimmy Page, as well as the thousands of fans who made their album the fastest selling debut in years to reach number one, following Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird’s debut in 2011.
Top tracks include ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Better Strangers’
- The Balcony, Catfish and the Bottlemen (2014)
Not only did 2014 see Royal Blood’s stellar debut top the charts, it also saw Catfish and the Bottlemen release ‘The Balcony.’ A gripping, lyrically stunning musical masterpiece, the Welsh indie rock band released their debut in September 2014, and it literally doesn’t have any bad tracks. From start to finish, the entire album is gripping and enthralling, full of beautiful poetically sensual lyrics, and massive guitar riffs which have filled out concert venues and festival gigs. The band saw Castlefield Bowl tickets sell out almost immediately, as well as their tent at Reading being so packed out eager fans were even standing outside the tent and signing along. Tracks like ‘Homesick,’ ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Kathleen’ are the more well-known ones, but the tracks nearer the end of the album are packed full of grit and raw rock talent too. As a debut, the album is extraordinary; ‘Rango,’ ‘26’ and ‘Sidewinder’ are crowd favourites, and the ending track of ‘Tyrants’ with its electrifying heavy drop finishes the album off spectacularly. The album also features intense, beautiful lyrics like ‘go ahead girl frustrate me,’ from ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘mess my place, chest infect me, waste my days’ from the stunning acoustic track ‘Hourglass.’ All in all, the debut has set them up to be the band to watch in 2016.
Top tracks include ‘Rango’ and ‘Cocoon’
- Is This It, The Strokes (2001)
The only American band to make this list, the New York rockers brought on a new wave of indie rock guitar bands, following their brilliant first album ‘Is This It.’ The album is quality, full of iconic tracks which Alex Turner has described in Q magazine as the album that changed his life. The catchy blaring guitar fills the album with something fresh and new, and the sound really did shape indie rock music for the early 2000s. Julian uses a retro sounding distorted microphone to blur his voice, giving the album an old rock’n’roll edge, like it came straight out of 60s London. The garage rock revival gave American rock a new meaning; the 90s was dominated by indie Britpop in the UK and grunge in the US, and the Strokes almost fused these iconic genres by creating an album full of heavy riffs with a heavy indie edge. The lyrics observe life in New York City, talking about sex and drugs and the mysterious glamour of the city. The album opens with the track ‘Is This It’ which features Casablancas’ heavy vocals and the famous metronomic drum line. The softer attempts at ballads come in throughout the album, but there are also heavy rock tracks like ‘Take It Or Leave It and ‘Barely Legal’ which features the edgy sex infused lyric ‘I wanna steal your innocence.’
Top tracks include ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Soma’
- Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m not, Arctic Monkeys (2006)
Easily one of the best albums of all time, Arctic Monkeys’ insanely vivid debut album tops the list. Released back in 2006, the album is full of sharp, witty lyrics about Sheffield life, and this paired with Matt’s intense drumming and guitar riffs from Jamie and Andy, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ is an intense, electrifying album from start to finish. The album went straight to number one and sold over 360,000 copies in its first week, and has gone on to be the fastest selling debut album in history. The track is full of crazy head-banger riffs from tracks like ‘The View From The Afternoon,’ ‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.’ It’s also full of insanely witty, tongue in cheek cocky lyrics about life in High Green; from moody girlfriends (‘Mardy Bum’) to dickhead bouncers (‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’) to scummy men and prostitutes (‘When the Sun Goes Down.’) One of the top tracks is ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ which features the infamous Sheffield phrase ‘fucking wank’ and talks about crap gigs and the realistic, gritty shit atmosphere around. The softer, more acoustic tracks like ‘Riot Van’ show of the intensity and vivid tone of Alex’s voice. Having received the 2006 Mercury Prize for Best Album, the album saw a string of EPs and B-sides follow, with tracks like ‘Settle for a Draw,’ ‘Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts’ and ‘Who the Fuck are Arctic Monkeys?’ further proving just how much the Sheffield four piece had to offer. Turner’s lyrics (who wrote the album when he was just a teenager!) are beautifully poetic, and reminiscent of work by John Cooper Clark and Paul McCartney. The artwork is also a piece of art in itself; it features the band’s mate Chris McClure smoking which drew in criticism from the NHS. It’s a 10/10 album no doubt about it
Top tracks include ‘Mardy Bum and ‘A Certain Romance.’