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Best Opening Tracks on a Debut Album

by Rob Slater on August 19, 2014

Photo: Stuart Levine

What is it they say about first impressions? They're the most lasting, or something like that? It does hold true, particularly in everyday interactions. In music, the first track on an album is vital. It sets the tone and plays a vital role in that record's legacy, for better or for worse. On the debut album, you better come out swinging with the tune that embodies the voice of your band or expect listeners to give you the quick hook.

It wouldn't take you 10 seconds of searching through your favorite records to realize there are some legendary tunes that kicked off debut albums. Zeppelin introduced themselves to the world with "Good Times Bad Times," Hendrix came out with "Purple Haze," The Ramones delivered "Blitzkrieg Bop" and that little boy band from England burst onto the scene with "I Saw Her Standing There." The list goes on and on from there.

There are countless examples of stellar first impressions in music history. Here are six for your listening pleasure.

Arcade Fire | "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"

The opening notes of "Tunnels" sounds like that of a sappy romantic comedy, with swirling harmonies and soft guitars. Then, we're introduced to a neighborhood swallowed up by snow. Arcade Fire in a nutshell. Four albums later, their hot streak is intact and they're simply one of the biggest bands on the planet.

The Doors | "Break On Through (To the Other Side)"

You know you're off to a good start when your first song is censored (Elektra Records edited the "she gets high" lyric). The Doors' first impression introduced us to one of the most unique, stunning and captivating rock stars ever--Jim Morrison.

LCD Soundsystem | "Daft Punk is Playing at My House"

James, Nancy, Pat, and all of LCD: Please come back.

Pearl Jam | "Once"

Ten remains Pearl Jam's most explosive, dominant record and while they have come close in following attempts (the next two and Yield weren't bad by any stretch), their legacy rests in these eleven songs. The opener, "Once," takes a backseat to anthems like "Alive," "Even Flow," "Jeremy" and "Black" and rightfully so, however, the opening track sets the tone for this 53-minute rock and roll exhibition and is one of the most unique tunes on the album. Let that brooding intro take you away into one of the finest albums ever pieced together.

Rage Against the Machine | "Bombtrack"

"Enough, I call the bluff. Fuck Manifest destiny." And music was changed forever. Rage would call the suits' bluff for nine years, becoming a legacy band with just four albums under their belt.

The Shins | "Caring is Creepy"

Long before Zach Braff introduced the world to The Shins and their tune "New Slang," the 2001-debut from Mercer and Co. mastered the "happy acoustic guitar with depressing lyrics" technique that captivated and subsequently fooled audiences all at the same time. And there is nothing like hitting the listener with "Go meander in the cold, Hail to your dark skin, Hiding the fact you're dead again." Welcome to The Shins.



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