They say you have your entire life to create your debut album, but they’re usually pretty terrible. However, these scene acts went above and beyond the call of duty, making bona fide masterpieces from the very start.
There’s hardly any filler on these records, and many of the albums mentioned here are fan favorites to this day, many years and albums later. Just don’t ever yell “Play your old stuff!” at a show when we can finally attend them—it’s quite rude. Check out our picks below.
The All-American Rejects – The All-American Rejects
The All-American Rejects came out swing swinging in 2002 with their debut self-titled LP for Doghouse Records. AAR promoted the record’s initial indie run with opening slots with quirky rockers Motion City Soundtrack and emo darlings Northstar. However, the perfect power-pop band seemed to be always destined for major-label success, and almost immediately after the record came out, a short four months later, it was re-released on powerhouse Dreamworks Records to eventual platinum sales. Thus, AAR were now a headline act and would continue to end a plethora of shows with album closer “The Last Song.”
Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls
It’s rare for a debut album to have even one hit song, but Boys Like Girls found a way to come out of the gates with three monsters (“Hero/Heroine,” “The Great Escape” and “Thunder”) on their self-titled LP. The sugary pop-rock was super sweet with BLG, and after support slots with many Warped Tour favorites such as Valencia and Cartel, they co-headlined a tour with Good Charlotte with Metro Station and the Maine opening. What a stacked lineup!
Chiodos – All’s Well That Ends Well
Chiodos seemed to come out of nowhere with their 2005 debut album, All’s Well That Ends Well, but the six-piece screamo band had been diligently plugging away at local VFWs and small all-ages venues for four years prior. By 2009, finding success with their next record, Bone Palace Ballet, the band were a main stage act at Warped Tour and had already joined the big leagues, touring with some of the biggest acts in the world: Linkin Park and Coheed And Cambria. None of this would have happened without the breakout success of Chiodos’ debut release and the star power of vocalist Craig Owens.
Circa Survive – Juturna
Equal Vision Records was on fire with debut albums in 2005, and the buzz surrounding Circa Survive’s debut LP, Juturna, was unparalleled. Fresh off quitting Saosin prior to the band signing with Capitol Records, vocalist Anthony Green formed Circa Survive with friends and friends of friends. The formula worked, and few were appalled with the end results. Circa Survive started their career by not sounding like anyone else, and each subsequent album release cemented their legacy with both originality and artistry.
Dashboard Confessional – The Swiss Army Romance
Who would’ve thought that a one-man band from Florida would catapult an emo movement to global fame? Dashboard Confessional started as a solo acoustic project in 1999, and DC shows around this time period included vocalist (and then-lone band member) Chris Carrabba, an acoustic guitar in an unconventional tuning and a crowd of extremely enthused attendees screaming infidelities over every lyric louder than the PA ever could. Every subsequent release took Dashboard further toward a forever career, and Carrabba later added a band for shows and releases.
Eisley – Room Noises
The Beach Boys proved that siblings can harmonize together better than pretty much anyone, and the 21st century had its own version of siblings singing different notes in unison with indie-pop family band Eisley. The DuPree family members have stupid good and ridiculously haunting vocals, and their debut LP, Room Noises, features unconventional, Olympic-worthy melodies and catchy yet strong musicianship. Eisley proved their strength and versatility on this album’s touring cycle by hitting the stage with Hot Hot Heat and Switchfoot. Basically, they’re your favorite bands’ favorite act.
Fall Out Boy – Take This To Your Grave
Next to blink-182, Fall Out Boy are arguably the second biggest pop-punk band in history. Numbers don’t lie. In 2003, FOB stormed the scene with 12 tracks that obsessive fans will forever clamor for live, Take This To Your Grave—the band still play “Saturday” at every show. You had to be there during that time period: Fall Out Boy were on everyone’s minds, and their army of supporters ardently campaigned for the act in a manner not seen again until One Direction arrived seven years later. Six major-label full-lengths later, this band are certainly here to stay.
Finch – What It Is To Burn
Drive-Thru Records may be best known for their pop-punk catalog, which includes two bands who pop up later on this list (Midtown and the Starting Line), but the label also excelled in the post-hardcore/screamo worlds. Without question, Finch’s debut LP, What It Is To Burn, is one of the ultimate screamo full-lengths of all time, and its legacy has been going strong for nearly 20 years. If you were lucky enough to attend the sweaty 10-year anniversary shows for the album last decade, you know that Temecula, California (the band’s home base) should be famed for more than just wine.
Glassjaw – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence
Long Island’s Glassjaw walked so the Used, Story Of The Year and Finch could run. The post-hardcore five-piece pulled no musical and lyrical punches right from the start and inspired a legion of ride-or-die fans for enigmatic vocalist Daryl Palumbo. The band also acted as a gateway drug for many pop-punk and scene kids toward the then-up-and-coming genre screamo, and the next 20 musical years were much louder and more intense as a result.
Good Charlotte – Good Charlotte
It’s hard to believe that Good Charlotte introduced themselves to the world 20 years ago. Their debut self-titled release took a minute to pop off, and the band were nearly dropped by Epic Records for selling much fewer units at the beginning than originally anticipated. However, they trudged on, and when the album did explode beyond the label’s expectations, there was no looking back for the world of pop punk. How’s that for a motivation proclamation for all musicians?
Mayday Parade – A Lesson In Romantics
Mayday Parade’s debut LP, A Lesson In Romantics, could also be named “A Lesson In Persistence,” as the band hustled their (just as good) debut EP, Tales Told By Dead Friends, to approximately 10,000 Warped Tour attendees waiting in line in 2006 without being on the actual tour lineup. Fearless Records promptly signed Mayday Parade after their overwhelmingly successful grassroots efforts. Just one short year later, they subsequently recorded and released one of the most lyrically quoted albums on this list.
Midtown – Save The World, Lose The Girl
It takes a lot to save the world, but solid three-part harmonies can certainly help. New Jersey basement heroes Midtown introduced themselves to many outside of the garden state by singing/yelling a cappella “God, I wish I could hate you for the rest of my…” and then proceeded to rock the fuck out for 12 solid tracks of their debut LP, Save The World, Lose The Girl. Guitar purists will love the dueling axes on said LP, and English majors will have plenty of phrases and words to analyze with the album’s clever lyrics.
Motion City Soundtrack – I Am The Movie
What happens when the biting pop punk of Jawbreaker merges with the power-pop synthesizers of the Rentals? Well, Motion City Soundtrack can certainly explain on their debut record, I Am The Movie. The band self-released this musically punchy and lyrically quirky record in 2002, and Epitaph Records took notice, signed them and re-released it one year later. Five albums (and almost 20 years) later, the band took a brief hiatus, but they made a triumphant live return earlier this year. One more record, boys?
My Chemical Romance – I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
Any album produced by our lord and savior Geoff Rickly of Thursday deserves at least 666 spins. My Chemical Romance’s first LP, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, came out of the skylines and turnstiles to an abundance of success in the heavy music world, causing Reprise Records to take notice of the New Jersey five-piece and later sign the band. Two years later, MCR were one of the biggest bands on the planet, and the 21st century would never be the same. This could and would not have happened without the ardent base built by this powerful debut album.
Paramore – All We Know Is Falling
Paramore’s debut LP, All We Know Is Falling, is the definition of a sleeper hit album. Nine years after its release, it finally was certified as a gold record in 2014. Vocalist Hayley Williams has been both shocking and pleasing diverse crowds at events such as the summery Warped Tour and the darker Taste Of Chaos festivals since she hit the scene in 2004, and the 10 tracks on Paramore’s first record truly showcase her unrivaled vocal prowess and super-strong delivery.
The Pretty Reckless – Light Me Up
A lot of television and film actors start bands, but few are half as successful as the Pretty Reckless. Gossip Girl actress Taylor Momsen proved the many naysayers dead wrong with their fire debut LP, Light Me Up, which contained three minor hit songs. Ten years later, the band are still going strong, which is a feat in itself. The first record did well in the states, but TPR are at another level in the United Kingdom, headlining much larger venues.
The Starting Line – Say It Like You Mean It
Pop punk belongs to the youth, and Kenny Vasoli, vocalist/bassist for the Starting Line, proved this fact when his band signed with Drive-Thru Records before he could legally vote. Produced by Mark Trombino (formerly of Drive Like Jehu), TSL’s Say It Like You Mean It may be the sunniest pop-punk record ever created. If given the chance, you should check it out right now so by the time emo nights return, you can scream every word of “The Best Of Me.”
Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends
Bands such as Glassjaw, the Movielife and the Reunion Show helped start a Long Island rock revival in the early 2000s, but no one stood out quite like Taking Back Sunday. Victory Records was on a roll at the turn of the century, and Tell All Your Friends arguably is the label’s ultimate release. You can thank a free label CD sampler for launching this one, as by the time TBS hit the road in support of their debut LP, they already had legions of fans singing along to every biting lyric coast to coast.
The Used – The Used
The Used put Orem, Utah, on the map with their debut self-titled record in 2002. Up till that point in time, one would be hard-pressed to find screams on rock radio. The Used truly changed the game 18 years ago, and the results were quite monumental, as the 12-track record eventually went platinum. Fun fact: The Used are one of few bands to play both Warped Tour and Ozzfest, and they did so on this album’s touring cycle.