NPR logo The Top 11 Debut Albums Of 2008

The Top 11 Debut Albums Of 2008

If this year's debut releases are any indication, then the prognosis for music is excellent in the years ahead. The best debuts of 2008 — not counting great releases from Bon Iver or Vampire Weekend, which we included in our 2007 roundup — embrace a wide variety of sounds and styles, including indie-rock, pop, disco, hip-hop, folk, electro-dance and techno freak beats, as well as a healthy dose of '70s-inspired classic roots rock. All are worth checking out.

Click here for more entries in the Best CDs of 2008 series.

The Top 11 Debut Albums Of 2008

Fleet Foxes

He Doesn't Know Why

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1. Fleet Foxes

  • Song: He Doesn't Know Why
  • from Fleet Foxes [Bonus Tracks]

The Seattle band’s first full-length album is an utterly gorgeous set of ethereal, psych-tinged folk. Using rich melodies and heavenly harmonies to flesh out beautiful, free-flowing songs, the disc echoes The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Sacred Harp singing and British folk. All the while, the group still sounds like it's created a magical musical world of its own. This is a stunner of a debut.

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Song
Fleet Foxes
Album
Fleet Foxes
Artist
Fleet Foxes
Label
Cooperative
Released
2008

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Hercules & Love Affair

Raise Me Up

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2. Hercules & Love Affair

  • Song: Raise Me Up
  • from Hercules and Love Affair

This New York project, led by DJ/producer Andrew Butler, blends straight-up disco and house music with beautifully arranged dance tunes; the results are as poignant as they are celebratory. Many guest vocalists are featured here, most notably Antony Hegarty, who sounds like a disco natural in the vein of Sylvester.

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Song
Hercules and Love Affair
Album
Hercules and Love Affair
Artist
Hercules and Love Affair
Label
Mute
Released
2008

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School of Seven Bells

Half Asleep

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3. School of Seven Bells

  • Song: Half Asleep
  • from Alpinisms

Former Secret Machines guitarist Ben Curtis provides the thick layers of dream-pop that lie beneath the soaring vocals of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza. The trio borrows from a broad range of sources, from early Appalachian folk to '60s Krautrock, while maintaining a contemporary, ethereal feel.

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Song
Alpinisms
Album
Alpinisms
Artist
School of Seven Bells
Label
Ghostly International
Released
2008

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Friendly Fires

Paris

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4. Friendly Fires

  • Song: Paris
  • from

The young British trio makes its debut with an excellent album of new-wave-influenced dance-rock, which features funky dance-floor rhythms and pop melodies that bring to mind the work of Talking Heads, The Rapture, New Order and LCD Soundsystem.

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Song
Friendly Fires
Album
Friendly Fires
Artist
Friendly Fires
Label
XL
Released
2008

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Cool Kids

A Little Bit Cooler

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5. Cool Kids

  • Song: A Little Bit Cooler
  • from Bake Sale

The Chicago duo plays enjoyable old-school hip-hop that showcases raw, sparse production, as well as irreverent lyrics which send up old-school rap conventions as much as they celebrate them.

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Song
Bake Sale
Album
Bake Sale
Artist
The Cool Kids
Label
XL
Released
2008

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Grand Archives

Miniature Birds

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6. The Grand Archives

  • Song: Miniature Birds
  • from Grand Archives

The debut full-length from this Seattle band -- led by Mat Brooke, formerly of Band of Horses and Carissa's Wierd -- is a lovely set of gentle indie-pop. A variety of instrumentation and beautiful multi-part harmonies help flesh out Brooke's sweetly wistful songs, which range from soft folk-pop ballads to energetic rockers.

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Song
Grand Archives
Album
Grand Archives
Artist
The Grand Archives
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2008

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Noah and the Whale

Give a Little Love

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7. Noah and the Whale

  • Song: Give a Little Love
  • from Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down

For optimistic, life-affirming indie-pop, listen to this every day. You might not need to refill your prescription for anti-depressants.

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Song
Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
Album
Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
Artist
Noah and the Whale
Label
Cherry Tree
Released
2008

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Blind Pilot

I Buried a Bone

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8. Blind Pilot

  • Song: I Buried a Bone
  • from 3 Rounds and a Sound

At first, the songs on 3 Rounds and a Sound might seem mellow and hazy, even a little unassuming. Over time, though, they grow on you, and ultimately beat down any resistance to their power and beauty.

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Song
3 Rounds and a Sound
Album
3 Rounds and a Sound
Artist
Blind Pilot
Released
2008

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Santogold

L.E.S. Artistes

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9. Santogold

  • Song: L.E.S. Artistes
  • from Santogold

Although the New York-based Santogold (a.k.a. Santi White) is often compared to M.I.A. -- they work with the same producers (Switch, Diplo) and maintain a similar multi-genre approach -- her self-titled album is much more pop-oriented. Straightforward song structures help Santogold hold together her genre-blending mix of new-wave synth-pop, reggae, hip-hop, electronica, R&B and rock.

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Song
Santogold
Album
Santogold
Artist
Santogold
Label
Downtown
Released
2008

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Moondoggies

Changing

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10. The Moondoggies

  • Song: Changing
  • from Don't Be a Stranger

With a sound that recalls The Band, Neil Young and The Byrds, this excellent young roots-rock group lends soulful three-part harmonies to catchy, well-crafted songs that stretch out at times, yet never engage in self-indulgent noodling. The Moondoggies' members fit right in to today's Seattle scene, nestled between the sublime folk-pop of Fleet Foxes and the earthier country-rock of The Maldives.

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Song
Don't Be a Stranger
Album
Don't Be a Stranger
Artist
The Moondoggies
Label
Hardly Art
Released
2008

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Joshua Morrison

Home

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11. Joshua Morrison

  • Song: Home
  • from Home

Another sublime debut, this collection of low-key folk-pop from a previously unknown Seattle singer-songwriter combines sparse production, haunting melodies and whispered, airy vocals that bring to mind Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek.

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Song
Home
Album
Home
Artist
Joshua Morrison
Label
Expanding Brooklyn
Released
2008

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