The 20 Best Debut Albums of 2011

It’s like clockwork. At this time of year, at least one friend who’s stopped paying attention to music climbs on his/her soapbox to proclaim that there are no good new bands any more, and that music’s gone to shit, etc. Inevitably, the situation devolves into an argument wherein you try to sell your friend on the virtues of a bunch of bands he or she has never heard of, and end up going to the bar in despair while they wander over to put Foo Fighters on the jukebox. Argh. But as ever, despite what people might want to tell you, there’s always plenty of great new bands and new music out there — you just need to know where to look. 2011 has been as good a year for debut albums as any, so next time you’re involved in such a discussion, feel free to point your obstreperous friend in the direction of the rest of this post — because after the jump, you’ll find our 20 favorite debut albums of 2011. As ever, suggestions are welcome.

EMA — Past Life Martyred Saints

We’ve already spent plenty of time eulogizing EMA here, but there’s always room for one more reminder of what a remarkable piece of work her debut solo record is. Simultaneously widescreen and viscerally intimate, confessional and engrossing, Past Life Martyred Saints is music that’s real. It’s made to satisfy an artist’s need for self-expression, it has something to say, and it commands your attention — even when the things that EMA has to say are uncomfortable or difficult to listen to.