The 13 best debut albums of all time, by The Mysterines' Lia Metcalfe

Lia Metcalfe, The Mysterines
(Image credit: Luke Brennan/Getty Images)

In her early teens, Lia Metcalfe had posters of Arctic Monkeys on her bedroom walls: next summer her band, The Mysterines, will play 15 stadium shows across the UK and Ireland as support to Alex Turner's group.

A dream booking for any band, nevermind one whose debut album [Reeling] emerged just over six months ago, the trek promises to be a proper 'pinch me' moment for the 20-year-old singer/guitarist, who co-founded the band in 2015. But, speaking to Louder on a Zoom call from her Liverpool home, Metcalfe is impressively relaxed about the prospect of the quartet's participation in what will almost certainly be the biggest tour to hit the UK in 2023. 

"It's like a childhood dream for us, and a real full circle moment, because we were all brought up on Arctic Monkey's music," she admits. "And it'll be a nice feeling too, because we'll be surrounded by people who inspired us. It makes you feel like you're moving in the right direction."

Every journey, of course, begins with a single step, and in the music business, that crucial first step comes with the release of an artist's debut album. As The Mysterines, along with Franz Ferdinand, KSI and more, are one of the artist ambassadors for the fifth annual National Album Day, set to take place on Saturday, October 15, we asked Lia to share with us her 10 favourite debut albums of all time: a passionate, enthusiastic melophile, she managed to narrow her list down to 13 selections.

So without further ado...

The Strokes - Is This It (Rough Trade, 2001)

The Strokes, Is This It

(Image credit: Rough Trade)

"My mum and dad brought me up on this record, pretty much, so it will always remind me of my childhood. There's videos of me dancing to The Strokes when when I was, like, four.

"My parents were pretty young when they had me, which was sorta around the time that this record came out, and they were both huge fans of The Strokes. They actually went to The Strokes' first ever show in Liverpool, and have met the band, which is weird, because we played with The Strokes In Berlin this year, so that was kinda another full circle moment for me, a moment I'll never forget.

"I know this album's tracklist so well, because I've listened to it so much, and I love the sound of of it: before I heard, like, The Velvet Underground, this was the first time that I'd heard that kind of raw energy. My parents weren't super into punk music, so this was kinda the best reflection of punk that I had as a child. I can stick this record on whenever, and still enjoy it. It's probably the one record that our whole band agree on as being one of the best debut albums ever, and it's a really important record to us."

Buy Is This It

Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (Capitol, 1995)

Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot album artwork

(Image credit: Capitol)

"I've recently got super into Sparklehorse, and my manager kindly gifted this to me on vinyl recently as an early birthday present. My dad used to play Sparklehorse when I was younger, and as I got older and my tastes developed it made more sense to me.

"It's so nice to fall in love with a new band, and I've not stopped playing this record for months: I think I'm actually driving the lads [in the band] insane with how much I love Sparklehorse, going on about them all the time, to the point where they've started calling me a sparklehorse. [Laughs] Mark Linkous is now one of my biggest inspirations." 

Buy Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot

PJ Harvey - Dry (Too Pure, 1992)

"This was a super important record to me when I was growing up. I discovered PJ Harvey in my teens, basically because people writing reviews of our band would make comparisons to her music, so I thought I should listen to her. At first I didn't really like it, but I think it was 50ft Queenie on Rid Of Me that first drew me in, and then everything just clicked for me.

"Everything on this record... the humour, how explicit it was... I'd just never seen that come from a woman before, or anyone at that point really, other than maybe Kurt Cobain. When I found out that she played as a three piece it just blew me away I remember spending days in my bedroom trying to play O Stella and I just couldn't nail it at all. She co-produced the album, and it's got a really distinctive sound: no-one has ever made a debut record like this."

Buy Dry

Arcade Fire - Funeral (Merge, 2004)

Arcade Fire Funeral artwork

(Image credit: Merge)

"There's never been another band for me like Arcade Fire: the sound of this record is timeless, but yet it's also so specific to where they were at the time. I loved the whole cult feel of the band, and the mystery surrounding them, and the instrumentation they used, and this is such a crazy art piece debut record.

"I went to see them when they played in Manchester recently, and it was hands down one of the best gigs I've ever been to in my life. They were incredible."

Buy Funeral

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - From Her To Eternity (Mute, 1984)

Nick Cave's From Her To Eternity artwork

(Image credit: Mute)

"When I first heard this record, when I was about 17, I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it came out in the '80s. It's like Nick Cave took all the passion and craziness of that time, put it into hell then poured it all out into this record. When I first heard it I was scared of it, and that's why I loved it, and kept listening.

"The opening track, Avalanche, is a cover of one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs. And it's so weird, because before I heard this record I wanted us to cover that song, and potentially put it on our debut: I think it was our producer [Catherine Marks] who said, 'Oh, Nick Cave did that on his debut' so I thought, 'Oh, okay, well, we can't do that then!'

"When you listen to this record it's like you're in the room with Nick Cave, watching him raise hell. His performances are electrifying. Also, [Australian singer/songwriter] Anita Lane, who was Nick Cave's best friend at the time, co-wrote some of the songs on this, so shout out to her, because some of that work is incredible, lyrically." 

Buy From Her To Eternity

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve, 1967)

The Velvet Underground & Nico artwork

(Image credit: Verve)

"This could be the best debut album ever, it's definitely up there. When it first came out it wasn't really received very well, or rather it was a cult, underground record, but it's now grown to be super well-respected, and, again, it was a super important record to me growing up because it made me approach music in a different way.

"Lou Reed, for me, is up there with [Bob] Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and there's a magic around this record that I've never seen or heard on any other debut record. Debut albums are always quite naive and that's one of the reasons you fall in love with them, but on songs like Venus In Furs, The Velvet Underground sound otherworldly. Even the artwork is totally iconic." 

Buy The Velvet Underground & Nico

Big Thief - Masterpiece (Saddle Creek, 2016)

Big Thief Masterpiece artwork

(Image credit: Saddle Creek)

"This is obviously a relatively modern record, and I think Adrianne Lenker is probably the best songwriter of modern times. Her records are so individual and original, and if you're not familiar with Big Thief or her songwriting, you should definitely check this out. 

"I've got to see Big Thief twice this year, and we played with them on the same bill that we played with The Strokes, and Adrianne Lenker was so captivating. Their new album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, is amazing, but the songwriting on their debut is incredible, and her words, to me, are up there with Mark Linkous. When I saw Big Thief I went straight up to her and said, 'Thank you so much for the music, because I completely fell in love with it' and she was sound, I think she appreciated it."

Buy Masterpiece

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen (Columbia, 1967)

Leonard Cohen debut album artwork

(Image credit: Columbia)

"I had to put Leonard Cohen in this list because, for me, it's him and Dylan vying for the title of the greatest songwriter ever. Bob Dylan wins, obviously, but Leonard Cohen is right there too. 

"My dad used to play Leonard Cohen records, so I was lucky enough to be introduced to his music as a child. I've got an auntie called Marianne so my dad used to sing So Long, Marianne when she was around, and so now that song makes me feel really nostalgic for growing up.

"I must admit that I had no idea that this was his debut album until I Googled it. Before that I was sort of wondering whether, like Dylan's debut, it might not be a classic, but this is wonderful, and it has So Long, Marianne on it, and Teachers, and Suzanne, and Master Song, and Sisters Of Mercy, so he kinda arrived fully-formed. Lyrically, I think it's the best debut record ever, and musically it's flawless."

Buy Songs of Leonard Cohen

Patti Smith - Horses (Arista, 1975)

Patti Smith Horses artwork

(Image credit: Arista)

"This is a record which changed me as a human, and as a writer. Patti Smith is the queen of the world for me, one of my favourite writers and performers ever, and she just offers complete freedom and positive naivety in explorations of the mind, soul and consciousness.

"She isn't just a musician, or a writer, she's the epitome of what it means to be an artist, and this record is just pure art, with that iconic Robert Mapplethorpe photograph on the front cover. I tried to recreate that outfit all the time at school on non-uniform days, but failed, and just ended up just looking like a teenage boy![Laughs]  But, yeah, she's insanely good, and I love her, and love this record.

"I got to see her actually last year, and I just cried the whole time."
Buy Horses

Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra - Nancy & Lee (Reprise, 1968)

Nancy & Lee

(Image credit: Reprise)

"One of the best albums I've ever heard. The songwriting is so ethereal, it creates a landscape and a world all its own, and you don't know if it's evil or if it's happy, because it's spooky and beautiful at the same time. Their vocals are just incredible, and the two of them collaborating together is one of the best things that's ever happened.

"Sadly, this wasn't a record that I was introduced to by my parents, which I'm sad about: if I'd known about Nancy Sinatra earlier I'd have way more knee-high boots in my collection! [Laughs] The vocals and song arrangements here are just flawless: Some Velvet Morning is like nothing else anyone has ever written, it's so weird and wonderful. The original record is so hard to find now, but I'll keep trying to get my hands on it."

Buy Nancy & Lee

The War On Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues (Secretly Canadian, 2008)

"I love this record so much. Again, I'd never really heard a debut album like this, and we're taking a lot of inspiration from this for our second record, so listen out for some rip-offs! [Laughs]  

"I first heard this when I was 13, and completely fell in love with it, and I've continued to buy their records since. As a songwriter, Adam (Granduciel) is one of my favourites, and my favourite song on this is There Is No Urgency."

Buy Wagonwheel Blues

Rodriguez - Cold Fact (Sussex, 1970)

Cold Fact album artwork

(Image credit: Sussex)

"When I first heard this I remember saying to my uncle 'This could be better than Bob Dylan.' And he... shouted at me, pretty much [Laughs]. But that's how much I fell in love with this record, and I'm still in love with it.

"It's like he's come from outer space, and the whole mystery around him, as documented in the Searching For Sugar Man film, is fascinating. It's like a relic of history now, this record. He's a great unsung hero of songwriting, and some of the lyrics on this, and the stories behind them, are just insane.

"I'd recommend that everyone check out this record, and you'll fall in love with it like I did. Even if I've since snapped back to reality and realised that no-one is better than Bob Dylan."

Buy Cold Fact

Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues Singers (Columbia, 1961)

Robert Johnson album artwork

(Image credit: Columbia)

"This is Satan's favourite record, I'd say. It's so otherworldly in nature, and the whole mystery surrounding Robert Johnson is fascinating. Strictly speaking it's a compilation of his old 78s, but it's the first full-length Robert Johnson album, so I'm counting it.

"Loads of weird things have happened when I've listened to this record in the past, especially on full moons and new moons, so I'm gonna keep trying to contact Lucifer through this record, and see where I get to..." 

Buy King Of The Delta Blues Singers

The Mysterines' excellent debut album Reeling is out now on Fiction. The band headline London's Kentish Town Forum on December 9.

To find out more about National Album Day, visit the website

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.