What is the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album?

You may have your favorite neglected microtonal drone guitar album, but let’s take this in another direction.  What’s the best accessible pop album that never caught on with listeners and buyers?

Of course that’s a funny question.  If it never caught on, what makes it so accessible?  What makes you think it is so accessible?  Those are exactly the sort of questions which require the high-octane collective intelligence of MR readers.  And I do have a nomination:

Pop Said…, by The Darling Buds.

It’s pitched at the level of good ABBA, and yet few people other than my friend Eric Lyon know it.  It has only five Amazon reviews and the band found little commercial success.

Another pick would be Pato Fu’s Televisao De Cachorro, which has only two Amazon reviews.  It is better known in Brazil, though it still sounds as if it should have serious crossover potential.  Some of the songs are in English, too.

What is your nomination?  How can such albums fail to take off?


Anything by Allan Sherman.

I would have picked one of the other Darling Buds' albums, "Crawdaddy".

Far Places by The Push Kings (I actually like their eponymous debut better, but the production lacked the slickness to be a true accessible pop album for the masses.

I completely agree - I immediately thought of this album when I read the title of this post, and was shocked to see someone else post it. Actually I think Everybody Else (eponymous debut) may be even more accessible, and is almost as good.

Surfer Rosa by the Pixies. It sold under 500 000 copies, and has been out for over two decades. Not really neglected but certainly not mainstream. If a track hadn't been featured on fight club I imagine it would be far more obscure. I would like to say that the lyrical material is a constraint with respect to its mainstream appeal, but the content on most popular hip hop albums makes that argument unappealing. Maybe acceptable content is genre specific, actually, that's probably the case.

I wouldn't call Pixies pop. And Surfer Rosa isn't that accessible - especially compared to Doolittle.

The Pixies are hardly obscure, if anything they've become overrated. In Boston they are certainly "mainstream".

The question is implausible. Because markets are efficient it is impossible for anything to be underrated, ever.

MR needs an upvote option.

Even more implausible because you can't underrate music you have never listened to. How else can you "neglect" an album?

Markets may be efficient, but humans are not. Experiments in social psychology suggest that song popularity is largely determined at random:


Only perfect markets are efficient and, as JCG mentioned before, humans are imperfect. Thus, the markets are imperfect.

Why do albums take off or fail to take off? Short answer might be that we are social animals and don't make these decisions independently and "as a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors", according to Duncan Watts (prof. of Sociology at Columbia). He describes an interesting experiment and suggests interpretations here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15wwlnidealab.t.html

"Present Tense" by The Shoes. I remember these guys from the late 70's. I never understood why they didn't get more popular:

Tomorrow Night

One of the few reviews for their forgotten album on Amazon says: "Timeless perfect pop that almost everyone ignored" which I think is about right.

Correction: it's just "Shoes" no definite article. My sister got a hold of my copy of this album way back when and played it until the grooves wore out.

"#1 Record" by Big Star. Incredibly catchy guitar pop -- a 1972 Billboard magazine review claimed "Each and every cut on this album has the inherent potential to become a blockbuster single."

This was sort of my instinct too. There are two axis along which an album can qualify for this honor, obscurity and pop accessibility. This album is really not that obscure but it is sufficiently strong in the excellent accessible pop rock direction to make up for it.

#1 Record certainly was accessible pop that never took off in its day, but hasn't it "caught on with listeners and buyers", particularly aging hipsters?

- From Good Homes

- Moxy Fruvous

- The Smithereens

Those are bands. All their albums are good. Pick one up and go to town.

I can't remember many examples but I remember thinking that a lot of bands make great music, later become popular, and their early music retroactively gets some recognition but not much, because of (e.g.) the biases of radio to not suddenly start playing something novel from 5 years ago.

For example, Ben Folds Five's self-titled debut... maybe the Decemberists' debut... Interpol's debut ...

Not like any of these examples would have been huge blockbusters, but if these bands had released such albums after they'd already gotten a following, they would have been much more popular, gotten much more airplay, etc.

Popularity is a function of intrinsic goodness and previous popularity (along with other factors), so many underrated albums simply came out before anyone was paying enough attention.

"I can’t remember many examples but I remember thinking that a lot of bands make great music, later become popular, and their early music retroactively gets some recognition but not much, because of (e.g.) the biases of radio to not suddenly start playing something novel from 5 years ago."

But then there is the opposite sort of case. Take "Piano Man." It peaked at #25, but today I bet it gets more airplay than all 24 songs that were ahead of it.

Beta Band's Hot Shots II

Starfish by The Church

Lovedrive by Scorpions

All Over the Place by The Bangles

She Hangs Brightly by Mazzy Star

The Slider by T. Rex

LOVE the Starfish recommendation. I could listen to that album over and over (and have).
LOVE Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star)

Since I like The Bangles, Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval, I'll throw in mine here:

Me and Armini by Emiliana Torrini from Iceland. The first Amazon reviewer nailed the description: folk styled poppy numbers with dark and delicate tension.

Out of Season by Beth Gibbons of Portishead fame

The album _Cold Fact_ by Rodriguez was quickly forgotten in the US after its 1970 release, but it was reissued in South Africa in the mid-70s and went on to become a platinum-seller there.

They still make albums??

Seems to me the album artists who weren't killed off by disco were killed off by MTV (premiere "Video Killed th Radio Star") and the CD.

The CD eliminated the hassle of picking out a single from a recording, and killed off the incentive to create a coherent 30-40 minute composition. For those who have never handled an LP, it requires a steady hand and good eye coordination to play anything but the first track and all that follow.

Yes, they still make one or more recordings issued together. Most of which are found on various digital formats.

Albums weren't killed off. Nor was the incentive destroyed. Grammy Album of the year "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire is a complete concept album that is best played in order, and has no obvious pop single.
But MP3s did make it easy for the market to skim off the people who aren't really that into music and give them the pop jingle they crave in a $.99 package.
I think the structure still remains the same. You have evangelists (hipsters, DJs, movie music editors) who really enjoy music and finding new things. These people then filter down the best to their friends (the $.99 mp3 people). Part of what I think happens here, and the reason for the neglected pop albums, is that they are essentially marketeers. They chose the albums with the greatest chance of success to introduce to their friends (since they don't have time to play every album they've listened to). So they're creating a filter that's unrelated to the market.

Talk Talk's "Laughingstock" is the most criminally underrated pop album. Modern Dark Side of the Moon.

Along with "The Spirit of Eden"

While these albums are great they aren't super accessible. Many songs are long and droning. They also aren't that neglected given their eccintiricities.

Dolly Mixture's "Demonstration Tapes", which was finally reissued last year after being out of print forever. Three British girls whose music sits somewhere between the Beatles, the Shangri-Las and the early punk bands. Great vocal harmonies/counterpoint and brilliant songwriting. (Also the source of my username.)

I'll also throw out recommendations for Prefab Sprout's "Steve McQueen" aka "Two Wheels Good" and Game Theory's "Big Shot Chronicles." Big Star is a good choice though I'm not sure they're that neglected in the grand scheme of things.

Game Theory was an amazing band - nice pick. Big Shot Chronicles came out when I was 15 years old and I've been a fan of Scott Miller's ever since. I was lucky to have an "alternative" radio station in my town (WHFS 99.1) and caught the last 1/2 of Erica's Word while in my parent's car. Went to Record World the next day and bought the cassette.

Lolita Nation, while far less accessible, was an amazing piece of work. Neglected, for sure. But people who have actually listened to it tend to give it high marks.

Lolita Nation is easily my favorite of theirs and one of my all-time favorites, but I don't really think of it as an accessible album (although about half of it is).

I think The Faint deserve more exposure. Their latest release, _Fascination_, is a mighty fine pop album.

Just a note, two i's in that: Fasciinatiion.

Maybe making the album name difficult to spell is a bad idea?

The irony is that the Buggles' first album, which includes "Video Killed the Radio Star," is a really good album.

Oh, definitely! I spent a lot of time evangelizing that album, to little avail. You'd think at least Kid Dynamo or Elstree would have caught fire.

Freedy Johnston's This Perfect World. Bad Reputation is probably the worst ^H^H^H^H^H least great song on the album.

I would vote for "Vulnerable" by Tricky. He self-released it and the title just sounds unappealing, given his usual audience for relatively heavy, intellectual hip-hop. It also is kind of weird and hard to pigeon-hole. It went pretty much completely unnoticed.

It has many extremely catchy, breezy pop songs and I think it is one of his best albums.

Second that... here's Anti Matter

Tyler, you have no taste in microtonal drone guitar. Screw Loveless, My Bloody Valentine! Listen to a man's microtonal drone guitar album!


How about "Toy Matinee". One album wonder that was very popular in California when I lived there. Lot's of radio play too. I saw them in concert and they mentioned something about being "stifled" by the big record company. I think the music business is its own worst enemy at times...

"Per Second Per Second Per Second", by Wheat

man i totally forgot about Wheat. you picked the wrong album of theirs for this exercise. Hope and Adams all the way.

I love Cheap Trick. Although they gained some popularity in the 80s and still have a cult following, they are underrated.

Their self titled album and Dream Police are great.

Any Slade album from the '70s.

the77s by the Seventy Sevens


The Christian Music ghetto did these guys in before they could blow up like the should have.



It might be a little too loud and punk to be considered "pop," but "All Hands on the Bad One" by Sleater-Kinney, while recognized by critics, probably didn't even sell 100,000 copies.

Here we go Magic's - Pigeons. Probably the album that I would think most people could appreciate.

Matt Pond PA's - The Green Fury, Nature of Maps, and Winter Songs. I'm pretty sure all these albums were recorded in NH, a state I lived in for several years, but rarely bothered to explore. The songs seem to bring out the spirit of living in NH and help me return again and again with ease.

Grizzly Bear's - Yellow House, Really mellow and perfect for rainy days or night time.

Animal Collective's - Merriweather Post Pavilion. An album I keep returning to for it's clever songs.

Tyler, I hadn't previously heard of "The Darling Buds" but maybe it was just the wrong sound for 1988. Grunge was on the verge of blowing up and after that Alternative would take over the radio waves. Maybe people just weren't interested in another pop album from an unknown artist, however well made.

Oh man how could I forget Lassie Foundation: El Rey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL5G8PMrcL0

And speaking of Promise Rings the band the promise ring should have been famous: Nothing Feels Good was a pop gem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srU0xhkfIFw

I would go with the Chalets album Check In

I'll throw out Aaron Sprinkle. One of the members of Poor Old Lu, an underrated sort-of Christian alternative rock band in the early 90s, he then went on to record two albums as part of Roseblossom Punch, then three solo albums, and now he has formed another band called Fair and recorded two albums with them. He wasn't the lead singer for Poor Old Lu and so it isn't really comparable to his later stuff (where he is the lead singer), but in my opinion all of his post-Poor Old Lu stuff is amazing, great catchy pop-rock.

I don't know how many albums he's sold, but since his day job is a record producer for Tooth & Nail Records in Seattle, I assume he hasn't sold that many, so I'd call him neglected and underrated.

If you want a single album, I'll point to his last solo album, Bareface.

Getting to Tyler's final question, "How can such albums fail to take off?"

Aaron Sprinkle's music hasn't taken off because by the time he was writing catchy, poppy music he was no longer a 20-year-old heartthrob - he was in his late-twenties, married, with a kid, and short and a little pudgy to boot. How many pop-stars like that ever hit it big, no matter their music?

Plus, you know, luck and all that.

In my mind accessible = pop, with the possible distinction that not every single album by a *pop artist* is necessarily accessible. So I can only understand this question as meaning: "among pop artists, which of their albums was most underrated." If the artist isn't popular, I don't think we can call it pop music. And since you ask "why it never caught on with listeners or buyers", you clearly mean underrated as in not more popular as opposed to critically underrated.

The only genre of pop music I know well is rock-n-roll, so I'm going with the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies. It didn't catch on because it came out in 1971 and here was the competition: Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers, The Who - Who's Next, Marvin Gaye - What's Going On, Led Zeppelin IV, Paul McCartney - Ram, John Lennon - Imagine, T Rex - Electric Warrior, The Doors - LA Woman, Jethro Tull - Aqua Lung, Sly and the Family Stone - There's a Riot Going On, Alice Cooper - Killer, Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat, among others.

I guess you did nominate an unpopular artist. But there's your problem. An artist needs to get a foothold first. In the case of The Darling Buds it sounds like the style was terribly out of fashion. I suppose that's the key difference between *pop* and *accessible*. Something can be out of fashion and accessible, but it cannot be out of fashion and popular.

Muswell Hilbillies is a critics' darling and at least one song "20th Century Man" is a well known AOR rock staple. Village Green Preservation Society is an even better album, and even more obscure today, but again - rock critics and hipsters love it, it has a following. Both albums are still in print. I think Tyler is talking about albums that don't have even little micro-cults.

Why do some albums take off? The need be good, and they investment in promotions and distribution by the labels.

also check,

*Creative industries: contracts between art and commerce* By Richard E. Caves

I nominate The Lucksmiths' "Warmer Corners." They're an Australian outfit that just folded. Catchy as heck.

Man, I love The Lucksmiths. "Why That Doesn't Surprise Me" was always my favorite album of theirs, though "Warmer Corners" is also really good.

The Eels - Beautiful Freak
Metric - Fantasies
Bishop Allen - Charm School

And if I were a time traveller to the late 70s from the 21st century I'd totally expect the first Ramones album to be a hit. And as proof: my officemate just said about "Beat on the Brat", "Catchy! They a UK band? Someone should remix that!"

We'll forgive his ignorance of the Ramones.

I second Bishop Allen, I'd go for the Broken String though.

Also some of these mentioned are almost polar opposites of what Tyler asked about - Animal Collective? They're neither accessible nor unpopular.

YOU can forgive his ignorance. I want to beat on the brat.

"It’s pitched at the level of good ABBA, and yet few people other than my friend Eric Lyon know it. It has only five Amazon reviews and the band found little commercial success."

There already is an ABBA. Albums in revival styles can be real good, but it isn't a mystery why they are not nearly as popular as the originals.

Agree. No mystery why in 1989 the world didn't want to hear another ABBA.

Anything by Happy Rhodes, though if I had to recommend one for an introduction, Many Worlds Are Born Tonight. Great songwriting, great voice, a little bit odd in some of the same ways that Kate Bush is but never got her legions of adoring fans. (Her electronic music is even more underrated, especially for the era in which it was made, but not really "pop".) Subject matter is sometimes a little dark to be radio-friendly, but that doesn't stop plenty of others albums from taking off.

Trace, by Died Pretty. It should have been the band presentation to the mainstream public, but it's unknown outside Australia. Zero amazon reviews.

The most obscure pop album I like is Plug In + Play by the Faders.

I suspect it's waaaaay too poppy for this audience, though.

Big Star is of course the #1 under-appreciated pop/rock band among ordinary listeners, though they're probably one of the ten most influential bands from the 1970s.

The Shop Assistants (s/t aka "Will Anything Happen" aka "Anthology")

Let's Active - Cypress/Afoot (collects their first two albums)

Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas

Ted Leo - The Tyranny of Distance

Robyn is still under-appreciated in the US for a more synth-pop sound.

The Yellow Pills series is very good for power pop. I also recommend the recent compilation "Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968," which is probably the best in the Nuggets series.

Let's Active -- wow, that takes me back. I loved it but I'm not sure how accessible it was.

I'd nominate Mary Jean & 9 Others by Marshall Crenshaw, who I believe was another North Carolina product.

I was going to say "Anything by Marshall Crenshaw," but maybe the most unjustly neglected is "Good Evening." One of its best songs even got left off his "best-of" CD set!

Yes! Third on Crenshaw.

Let's Active was fantastic. Pure, awesome pop. I just recently loaded a bunch of tracks on to my phone. It still holds up after all these years.

"Forever" by Cracker.
Songs like "Brides of Neptune" are utterly brilliant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8TYkP0Goio

I'll 2nd Forever by Cracker.

I like both of Fastball's follow-up albums after they mutually parted ways with Hollywood Records. Very classicist pop, Beatles-Stones-Costello-Small Faces type stuff - never met anyone who likes classic rock and *doesn't* like this music immediately, though plenty of people don't see anything new or exciting in it. Fastball put out a "best of" CD to fulfill their contract with Hollywood & then broke up for a while, so it was easy for casual fans to conclude they'd permanently split. Not so.

You could fill out this post forever, though. There are lots of bands on the same musical level as bands that made it big, who didn't have the image, weren't of the moment, or didn't feel like spending the rest of their lives on permanent tour.

Lots of the bands being named in this post have plenty of underground cache!

I guess I'll also say that this is very sad music, possibly another reason they never had a big crossover hit (though there are at least as many non-musical factors as musical factors at play here).

Wonderful Life - Black

jason falkner - author unknown/can you still feel?

the grays - ro sham bo

jon brion - meaningless

michael penn - resigned

I second the Grays' Ro Sham Bo (and Jason Falkner solo stuff). Delightful, accessible album by an amazing pop collective that didn't sell a lick. What with all the producing gigs, his always-popular one-man-shows and such, Jon Brion doesn't seem too neglected to me, although that is a tasty album.

@Tom Noir, the Darling Buds came out in 1988, when fuzzy pop music was pretty big in the UK - bands like the Primitives had some big hits around the time and the Vaselines, Pastels, Shop Assistants, Primal Scream, Wedding Present, McCarthy and the C86 bands were all making a reasonable impact. If anything, there was too much of it at the time, and nothing from that period is particularly well-remembered today.

"nothing from that period is particularly well-remembered today"

It isn't remembered because it never went over in America. America wasn't interested in fuzzy pop in 1988. After a sickening decade of new-wave music, America was again ready for loud guitars and male vocalists who sounded more like men than women. Also rap music was starting to gain a big following among white audiences and all the Republicans were listening to Garth Brooks. No market for retro-ABBA stateside.

That's a good point. Although I think people are reading too much into the ABBA comparison Tyler makes - from what I've heard of the Darling Buds, they don't actually sound much like ABBA.

Red House Painters - Rollercoaster
Victory at Sea - Carousel
Jesus and Mary Chain - Darklands
The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead
Terry Reid - River

Honeybus was a brilliant baroque pop from the late '60s that was as brilliant as the Kinks or Badfinger. They had one hit in England, "Can't Let Maggie Go." But they never recorded a bad song.


So I never heard of them. First thing on Youtube is "Girl of Independent Means". Jeez, David Bowie ripped that song off pretty comprehensively ... (The Jean Genie). Great band indeed, judging by available selections.

Loveless is a great album (one of my favorites), but it's hardly neglected! Maybe this is a US/Europe issue? Here (in Europe) it always gets mentioned as a seminal album whether you are talking about shoegaze, britpop or just early 90s music.

Sparks - Hello Young Lovers (2006)

The Magnetic Fields write excellent pop songs, but they are probably too noisy to be considered accessible. Pixies also probably too raw and noisy to be acceptable, accept perhpas Doolittle... which sold way too many copies to be considered neglected and underrated. Blur are pop geniuses and definitely not underrated, though I'd argue Liesure does't get the respect it deserves. Can't say XTC is unheralded. Early Boo Radleys and Chapterhouse are excellent, but probably too spaced-out to be considered accessible.

Honorable mentions:
-Charalatans UK "Some Friendly" perhaps, but probably not underappreicated enough.
-Jale, "Dream Cake" is a nice little power pop album from the mid 1990's. Sort of Julliana Hatfield mixed with Jane's Addiciton. Not good enough to tell all of your friends about though.

My Votes
Big Star "#1 Album" is a good candidate, as noted previously.
The Three O'Clock , "Sixteen Tambourines" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqallqnkvQ8&feature=related
Klatuu, "Hope" - Maybe a little too artsy and Sci-Fi to be widely accesible, but in it's day (mid 1970's) it wouldn't have seemed as out there
Rain Parade, "Emergency Third Rail Power Trip" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR9Xlx4OjlM&feature=related (Maybe too psychedlic?)

Flipping things around, how about a pop album that is super popular and deserves to be treated with more respect than it gets? I think No Doubt's "Rock Steady" is a very well produced pop album.

All Shook Down, by The Replacements.

I think they just had the wrong sound for the time.

Somebody else already mentioned Big Star's #1 Album, so I'll mention my other favorite: Grant Hart's Good News for Modern Man. Everytime I listen to it, reminds me of why I prefer his Husker Du songs to Bob Mould's.

I'll nominate The Lambrettas' Beat Boys in the Jet Age, Goodbye Jumbo by World Party, The Sundays' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic & XTC's Wasp Star Apple Venus Volume II.

Second the Grizzy Bears.

Nominate Jump, Little Children's Magazine. Never understood why that band never was huge. They were THE sound of the time (late 90's, early oughties), only better. Good songs, good lyrics, and really interesting musicality. Bass cello, cello, and several great singers. I love all their albums, but Magazine was so very accessible pop.

"Highly Refined Pirates" by Minus The Bear

The lyrics, rhythms, and melodies are highly accessible. But the song titles are completely off the wall:
01 - Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister
02 - Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!
03 - Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse
13 - Let's Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band

and so on. And it's not like track 1 is actually about playing Twister. It's about drinking! And so are most of the other tracks for that matter... Anyway it's an absolutely brilliant album.

The Hopefuls [fka The Olympic Hopefuls] - The Fuses Refuse to Burn (despite getting played on "The O.C.")

maybe Walt Mink - Bareback Ride, depending on how far you stretch "pop"

Re-Zoom by The Knack (2003), seriously catchy. Ok, they had more than their just deserts in the 70's with My Sharona, so perhaps karma caught up with them. The person who gave me the cd is the only other person I've ever met who's heard it. I've tried to get other people interested and they hear 'The Knack' and walk awy (when they don't run).

Oh yes. "Head" and "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." by the Monkees, as well. The fact that the Monkees released several above-average psychedelic pop albums is somehow forgotten by the people who lived through that time, who seem to remember them only for the earlier bubblegum stuff and the TV show. Somehow my generation, who suffered through "Pool It!" appreciates 1967/68 Monkees more.

Not a single answer but a good source for this kind of thing is the "The Sounds in my Head" podcast



Love is Hell by Ryan Adams. Blows me away every time, and I don't think it's that popular an album (thank god my friend shared it with me or I would have never known). Other albums that come to mind:

Libertines - Libertines (I guess they're not that well-known outside of the UK, and that's a real shame; probably the best album I've ever heard, though not sure it qualifies as pop music)
Eels - Electro-shock blues; Daisies of the galaxy
Bonnie Prince Billy - Master and everyone
Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
Keith Caputo - Dead Laughing
Nada Surf - Let go
The Sheila Divine - Where have my countrymen gone; New Parade
Steve Earle - Jerusalem

Have to go with Let Go (Nada Surf).

Dinosaur Swamps by The Flock.

How can anybody resist lyrics as improbable as those of "Hornschmeyer's Island"?

"Jules" by Julie Driscoll, with a great rendition of Donovan's "Season of the Witch".

Most pop music is horrible and the only reason it is ever tolerated in the first place is because it is new and fashion demands newness for its own sake or, in retrospect, because the music evokes nostalgia. If Thriller or Boston's first album had never been released but were suddenly discovered today, nobody would be interested in those songs. They would sound to our ears like 2nd rate versions of music from there respective eras.

Was I the only one who did a double take at the implication that "Loveless" is "neglected"? Isn't it generally recognized as one of the great rock albums of the 90's?

Anyway, Maritime's "We the Vehicles" leaps to mind. Maybe the Long Winters, who aren't exactly obscure, but don't seem as well known as I'd expect for how catchy they are.

Oh, and "Places" by Georgie James. It was the soundtrack to DC the summer it came out, but never seems to have gotten much of a national profile.

A well-known but, in my mind, underappreciated pop record is "I Get Wet" by Andrew W.K. I thought it was cheesy when it came out, but I've found myself enjoying it more and more as time has passed. Not unlike Devo.

A band not nearly enough people know is Finland's Magenta Skycode, and their second album "Relief", released last year, is excellent. For those who like the Danish band Mew but wish they were a little poppier.

Love the Loveless reference, Tyler. And second the Jon Brion, Meaningless. Also, I'm not sure this qualifies under your parameters but as a youngin' I'll nominate The Lemonheads, It's a Shame About Ray. Either way, phenomenal album.

Deltron 3030 - a sprawling, epic rap album (the first mentioned on this board?) that appeals to the brain and the soul; dystopian and playful

Le Tigre (self-titled) - poppy feminist dance-punk that once made it onto a national commercial, but is still not widely recognized

Anything by Splashdown - their EP and LP were basically self-distributed, leaving plenty of folks unaware of their brand of... hmmm.... indie pop? - with gorgeous soaring vocals

Also, the original Etoile de Dakar - fairly well known within its genre (it's Youssou N'Dour's first band), but I'd love to try out some of their best songs on a wider audience

"New Age Girl" by Deadeye Dick. It was featured in "Dumb and Dumber" but I've never heard it outside of that movie.

The Mayflies USA -- Walking in a Straight Line

The Get Up Kids - Four Minute Mile

Hands down, it's *Never Say* by the Action Design. I loved it the first time I heard it, and have listened to the whole album ~200 times. How can this not be popular? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9plmB6H2ZnI

Interestingly, TAD does a cover of "Chamber of Hellos" by Wire Train. Wire Train's *In a Chamber* is the album I'd recommend. The album is no longer available (unless you want to buy it used on Amazon for $50). Some of the songs -- audio only -- are on on youtube.

I add just about any album by Warren Zevon - one of the most tragically overlooked musical artists of the rock era.

The Road to Utopia -- Utopia
Wonderful -- Madness

Guided by Voices - Bee Thousand

Margo Guryan - Take a Picture

Anything by La Casa Azul

Weddings, Parties, Anything - any album; Aztec Camera - Stray; The Beautiful South/Housemartins - any album; The Tragically Hip - any album. All are/were very popular and successful in their home countries (Australia, UK, UK and Canada) and have barely made a ripple in the US as best I can tell.

US band that come to mind is Little Steven of E Street fame - Voice of America (or any of his albums with the exception of his last perhaps)

An album has a very narrow window of opportunity to gain a foothold, marketing is usually a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for success. To go viral so to speak, the album needs to be fashionable in some sense to take off.

Totalled by the winkies
eno produced so many bands that never made it.
re: big star thise albums are only unappreciated in terms of top 5 success.
chilton went on to a great underground indie existence as did the pixies.
i guess the problem with under appreciated is under appreciated in which market?
Chilton and the pixies are huge stars in the indie circles. lou reed never made it as a rock star, but as a musician he isn't under appreciated.

alos might add that twink made great rock pop after leacing t.rex but isn't terribly appreciated.

There's been quite a few but can't think of one at the moment. What really got me thinking though is how did all the bad ones make it big. slatetabletpcreview.com

I'm not picking up on the ABBA flavor. Sounds more like Blondie to me.

Early album by the Church - Blurred Crusade
also Seance, their third album

If I claim an album is "neglected and underrated", am I not claiming that I know its value better than the market? By branding an album "neglected and underrated" are we claiming that there is market failure , that the album has sold less than what is socially desirable?
And is it OK to refer to to a brand of soda or a particular ice-cream flavor as being neglected and underrated?

Not even a close call: Nick Lowe, "The Jesus of Cool," relabeled for the US market as "Pure Pop for Now People." Every song on the album is classic power pop.

The dBs, *Repercussion* or *The Sound of Music*. Extremely accessible power pop that didn't get much popular recognition, as far as I know.

I'd make a case for some of The Impressions' last albums - particularly The Young Mod's Forgotten Story.

These albums are all but forgotten, I think because of a sort of category error. In the late 60s, white guitar bands embraced the concept album and were judged as artists on the quality of a finished album. Soul was still a singles genre and judged as such - no doubt in part because its core audience didn't have the money for long players.

But that didn't stop soul musicians having the same ambitions as their white pop counterparts. We all accept Curtis Mayfield was a unique artist but somehow his work with the Impressions is too obscure for white audiences, while perhaps not being conscious enough for the black audiences turned on to his later, funkier solo work.

But as pure pop they're truly brilliant. They're not flawless but put against the stuff being released by white artists at the same time, the filler is no weaker than that on, say, a Beatles album. And the best tracks are sublime.

I think this same argument applies to a whole bunch of albums by largely black artists from the 50s and 60s who were mostly being judged on their singles rather than their albums. The same goes for some early albums by white 60s bands - eg The Beatles For Sale - which were mostly covers and filler but have now been canonised because of the bands' later conceptual works.

Kyle Andrews: Amos in Ohio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WuawWXMjQE) -- super-catchy, to me at least.

Lloyd Cole, too.

I'm seeing a lot of rock here, but maybe not so much pop. So here's my nominee:

Janis Ian II (by Janis Ian, or course), from 1978, You can listen to some of it here: http://www.janisian.com/albums/janis.php,

Ian is best known, I think, for her first album (Janis Ian, from 1967), released when she was 14 and featuring "Society's Child." Or maybe for the single "At Seventeen." But she had a great run in the 1970s, when not very many people were listening to her. "Grand Illusion" (from JI II) hit #43 on the Adult Comtemporary charts and the albm didn't chart anywhere, which give you an idea how popular it was.

Loaded - Velvet Underground

Excellent album, 100% pop, no avant-garde

I'm seeing a lot of rosk here, maybe not so much pop. Anyway, here's my nomination:

Janis Ian II (by Janis Ian, of course), 1978. She was 25 when the album was released...

She's probably best known for her first album (anis Ian, 1967; "Society's Child"), or maybe for her 1975 single, "At Seventeen." Janis Ian II didn't chart on any lists I've been able to find, although a single from it ("Grand Illusion") hit #43 on the adult contemporary charts. You can hear a little of it here: http://www.janisian.com/albums/janis.php

Sorry about double-posting, but I never saw the first version come up in the comments. Sigh.

Living Eyes by The Bee Gees. Landed like a thud after the death of Disco in 1981. However, it wasn't a Disco album.

+1 to the guy who mentioned Toy Matinee

They only made 1 CD. I believe Kevin Gilbert and Patrick Lenord had a falling out. And then Kevin Gilbert died in an autoerotic asphyxiation accident.

Wilderness Survival is the most underrated band, all they're albums were made entirely by two kids.

Their 2010 effort was a gorgeous album


The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

I'm With Stupid - Aimee Mann

Great thread and some killer recommendations.

My contributions are:

* One Mississippi by Brendan Benson, now of the Raconteurs. This is a great collection of short little power-pop gems that flow seamlessly from one to the other.
* From the End of Your Leash by Bobby Bare Jr. Great songwriting and performance. I really don't understand why BBJ isn't just huge (well, he could lose a few pounds, but I mean popularity-wise), but from a selfish standpoint I get to go see him at tiny tiny clubs. I think this is his best album, although The Longest Meow is also great (only rock-and-roll song about the $6 Million Man that I know of).

Most Flying Nun bands: Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox, The Clean, The Chills, etc.

Like the Darling Buds these bands are well-known to music nerds but underappreciated by listeners generally.

My nomination: Of Montreal's "HIssing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" Amazing that Kevin Barnes is not as big as Kanye.

Two Steps from the Middle Ages, by Game Theory.
Brilliant from beginning to end.


I knew Game Theory would show up a few times on this list. Such an amazing band. Scott Miller is legendary (and, from what I understand, now a database programmer).

Lolita Nation is genius.

The Last Waltz Soundtrack: The Band

Australian albums tend to get surprisingly little love from US audiences - a mystery given how important US influences from soul to country are in Australian music. Three examples:

- Crowded House, "Woodface" (1991) - Example tracks "Fall At Your Feet" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZdcz1ALuBo) and "Weather With You" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b99vu9bH2Zc&feature=related). Songwriter Neil Finn has crafted more terrific songs over the past 30 years than anyone else I can think of, and is frequently compared to Paul McCartney. Yet Crowded House never broke big in the US. As the video shows, Australians have not neglected them.

- The Black Sorrows, "Hold On To Me" (1989) - An example track is "Chained to the Wheel" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbqH4FjiXac). One of the most American-sounding bands in the history of Australian music, with heavy cajun and zydeco influences.

- George, "Unity" (2003). Example track "Today" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAxAFVxk9wg&feature=related). Magnificent, lush, melodically complex pop.

Anything from NRBQ's 40-year history.

Sloan - either One Chord to Another or Never Hear the End of it. Maybe somewhat heralded in Canada but shockingly ignored down here.

Sometimes I feel like the only person who finds "Smeared" an uncommonly great album. A little naive and derivative maybe, but still solidly catchy/joyfully noisy.

Prefab Sprout Two Wheels Good/Steve Mcqueen...

I would like to say that the lyrical material is a constraint with respect to its mainstream appeal, but the content on most popular hip hop albums makes that argument unappealing.

Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls "Gossip"

One of the best albums ever. Did well in Australia. The band changed their name to Paul Kelly and the Messengers when they signed with A&M.

Swan Dive. I particularly like "June;" but really, any of their albums should be played often and with pleasure.


Old 97's, "Fight Songs"

Any Matt Bianco album.


Bevis Frond - New River Head

Talk Talk
Spirit of Eden

Delete your IPod-load Spirit of Eden-play.

"Um Zero Amarelo" self-titled debut album released in 2000 - all songs in portuguese. Not so underrated, but totally neglected. Here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=um+zero+amarelo

Jellyfish - Spilt Milk

Absolutely the best album of all time - it's got a bit of posthumous cult respect but should be appreciated by a far wider audience. Killed by grunge!

(You got picked up by MetaFilter, so I thought I'd share my post here as well.)

Two I can think of off the top of my head:

ANYTHING by Kirsty MacColl (seriously), but particularly Titanic Days. There's a dandy 2-CD edition of it with loads of bonus tracks and it's just an amazing album. But seriously, you will not be steered wrong by ANY of her records. (and, man, Desperate Character really needs a re-issue... it's the one with the "hits" on it! "They Don't Know", "There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" and the classic "Teenager in Love".)

The Official Secrets Act by M. M's big hit was "Pop Muzik", this is "the difficult second album". Except it's not, and it's amazing. I wrote a long appreciation of this one, at my own site:
Short version: It's amazing.

(I also wrote a review for another site I contribute to for the recently reissued McLemore Avenue by Booker T. and the MGs. That's another just mindblowing record.)

(the Jellyfish recommendation reminded me of the brilliant Roger Joseph Manning, Jr solo record "Catnip Dynamite". The previous one, "Land of Pure Imagination" is real good too, but "Catnip Dynamite is AWESOME.)

OMG, I'm gonna go download me some Shoes! I had them on vinyl in High School and lost them in a regrettable rebellion against all things New Wave in Junior year.

Also lost and missed:
The Sports esp. "Who listens to the Radio?"
Spider esp. "New Romance"
Fabulous Poodles esp. "Any Port in a Storm"

Nouvelle Vague--Bande à Part

The first thing that comes to mind is an Austin band called Cotton Mather - Kontiki is the go-to favorite, but I prefer the follow-up, The Big Picture. I don't know another person that's heard of this band, unless if I've forced them to listen.

They've long since broken up but their lead singer and main songwriter started another project called Future Clouds and Radar.

The Vulgar Boatmen - You and Your Sister
Clang - Pol Pot Pie

I agree with the Bishop Allen and Michael Penn calls

One I forgot:
The Verlaines - Ready to Fly

I'll second Wonderful Life by Black, and add:

Submarine Bells, by The Chills

Drop the Roof, by Out of My Hair

The Wrong People, by Furniture

Astronauts, by The Lilac Time

Fantastic Playroom, by New Young Pony Club (and their second album, The Optimist)

Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine, by Cosmic Rough Riders

... every one of these is chock full of gorgeous, accessible, singalong pop tunes.

Cretones "Snap Snap"

The Waxwings -- Low to the Ground. Man oh man great, pure guitar pop with angelic harmonies made by guys in t shirts from Detroit . . . .

The Chills "Submarine Bells"
Esp. The track "Heavenly Pop Hit"

My nomination is "Spirit Finger" by the Dylans. Pitch-perfect, guitar-driven power pop/alt rock. Laced with enough to keep the indie kids off your back but as ear-pleasing and eminently hummable as any great power pop album.

"How Little You Know" is a good start:


"Love and Lemonade" by the now defunct Futuristic Retro Champions (available on iTunes). Perfection in a Scots brogue.

Anyone remember 'The Sound of Sunbathing' by The Sinceros? Really bright, melodic UK power pop.

Anything by the 2 Skinnee J's

There are really so many "this could have done so much better" options, but here's 10 for me (that cover a pretty broad swatch of 'accessible' inasmuch as the come from various different flavors of the rock/pop spectrum):

Toy Matinee - Toy Matinee
Wendy & Lisa - Eroica
Coldfinger - Return to Lefthand
Jonatha Brooke & The Story - Plumb
David Baerwald - Triage
Curve - Gift
Ephraim Lewis - Skin
Meshell Ndegeocello - Comfort Woman
Marillion - Afraid of Sunlight
Jakko Jacsyzyk - The Bruised Romantic Glee Club

My vote goes to Shed Seven and their compilation The Singles.

How about Lightning Seeds first album, Cloudcuckooland with its single "Pure" that never quite made it?

Also ... i think they are stuck in the Christian-rock ghetto, as an earlier commenter noted, but Michael Franti and Spearhead is mighty good pop.

I had a few hours to kill, so I put the recommendations from this thread into a YouTube playlist:


I am about 50% through the discussions and will update it as time allows.


Honeymoon Suite

If you like 80s pop rock, these guys are great. No particular album to recommend, but I haven't heard a song I didn't like. They might have been popular in Canada, but they didn't get much play in the US.


Comments for this post are closed