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What is the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album?
May 9, 2011 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Econblogger Tyler Cowen asked his readers What is the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album? 154 and counting answers range from Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion to the 1960s band Honeybus and everything in between. One comment points to an interesting possible answer [Previously on mefi] to why a good album never catches on. "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"

So what's your vote for the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album?
posted by Blake (100 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
So what's your vote for the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album?

Before I answer, could we get a judges' ruling on the definition of "underrated" and "accessible"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


16 Lovers Lane by the Go-Betweens.
Shortest MeFi thread ever.
posted by NoMich at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey! I know the answer to this one: The Chameleons, Strange Times, featuring the best greatest post-whatever epic wonderful Soul in Isolation.
posted by googly at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, we cannot. Those are not rigidly defined terms. Somehow we manage to get along with fuzzy definitions anyway.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2011


Maggie and Terre Roche's Seductive Reasoning (1975).

Its main problem is that CBS/Columbia/Sony/TBD won't keep the blessed thing in print.
posted by Trurl at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Merriweather Post Pavilion, underrated? Clearly we do need to define "underrated."
posted by valrus at 6:51 AM on May 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


Good men want a virgin, Trurl.
posted by not that girl at 6:53 AM on May 9, 2011


Fantasma by Cornelius
posted by Damienmce at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Merriweather was the most critically acclaimed album of 2009. So whatever we're trying to talk about, that's probably not it.
posted by naju at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2011


Yeah, and I'd take issue with "accessible" for Merriweather too. I like it a lot but it doesn't exactly reveal itself on first listen. Unless the author means "accessible" in the sense of "available to most people with little difficulty," but it doesn't seem like that's the case.
posted by penduluum at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where we get to sit the internet down in a comfortable chair, hand them a drink, and say, "Seriously, you gotta hear this album. It's unbelievable" and then crank up the stereo?

Okay, then.

Holopaw's Oh Glory. Oh Wilderness.
Unbearably beautiful, complex, subtle, brilliant, and endlessly listenable gay pseudo-Americana/indie rock. And not a single rating on Amazon.
posted by MrVisible at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a search for the "No-hit wonders"?

How about the O-neders? I really liked the movie "That Things You Do" which addressed some of the chance elements involved in success (like having your drummer break his arm at the right moment.)
posted by notmtwain at 6:58 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, and I'd take issue with "accessible" for Merriweather too. I like it a lot but it doesn't exactly reveal itself on first listen. Unless the author means "accessible" in the sense of "available to most people with little difficulty," but it doesn't seem like that's the case.

Yeah, that's what I was getting at -- does he mean "accessible" like "you can purchase it at most music stores and maybe on either Amazon or CDBaby, as opposed to having to special-order it from a single independent label operating out of a shed in DuBuque", or does he mean accessible like "you won't feel like you need to have had a PhD in Balinese music and performance theory to get what you're hearing"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on May 9, 2011


Yeah, that's what I was getting at -- does he mean "accessible" like "you can purchase it at most music stores and maybe on either Amazon or CDBaby, as opposed to having to special-order it from a single independent label operating out of a shed in DuBuque", or does he mean accessible like "you won't feel like you need to have had a PhD in Balinese music and performance theory to get what you're hearing"?

"Accessible" in this context means the latter.
posted by dfan at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


One comment points to an interesting possible answer [Previously on mefi] to why a good album never catches on. "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"

The experiment which is described in that NYT article is interesting, but I'm not sure how much it reflects the state of things, say, 25-30 years ago or more when it came to the success of recording artists and albums.

I just had a conversation over the weekend with a buddy of mine, and he and I were discussing why I had this odd exposure to certain kinds of music when I was young and he didn't. And at some point, I realized that much of my musical history was determined by the radio station I was listening to.

Magic Mike at KLAQ out of El Paso was such a great program director, and he loved to DJ too and took a regular shift behind the turntables. The station was a pretty wide mishmash of rock with a bit of pop and even some folk mixed in. It was also VASTLY popular throughout the area, and was regarded amongst my peers (extending several years either direction from my age) as one of the better radio stations.

Magic Mike would regularly play music that just simply appealed to him. I mean, he had to stay more or less in the format of the station, but he didn't mind tossing in a track here and there if it was something he felt other people needed to hear. He also would put tracks in heavy rotation which weren't necessarily making a splash in other parts of the country, causing bands to have a regional hit within the KLAQ listening area.

It's hard to really look at radio today and compare it to those days. So much of it has become the opposite of what it was back then. And yeah, there are those legendary stations like WFMU or whatnot, but they have never been popular commercial stations like KLAQ was. And I think that the power of such stations and of visionary station managers like Magic Mike had a lot to do with how certain things gained an audience during those years.

All that said... the most neglected pop music album? Indio - Big Harvest.
posted by hippybear at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what's your vote for the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album?

Chat filter?
posted by londonmark at 7:03 AM on May 9, 2011


For me, it's a tossup between Lady Chatterly by Chattering Class Warfare and Chattering Teeth by Cold Chatty Cathy.
posted by pracowity at 7:04 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a thread where I get to mention Channeling Owen and their one album again. Check out the songs Overlapping Pieces and Popular and tell me there isn't genius at work there.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:05 AM on May 9, 2011


There is no chatfilter on the Blue. Chatfilter is on the Green.

I'd vote for Foxbase Alpha by Saint Etienne.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:08 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


And my answer is Cotton Mather, Kon Tiki.
posted by dfan at 7:11 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even a step further is amazing music that never even made it out of the gate, never had a shot - there's this thread about the song "You and Me" by the group Penny and the Quarters, a decades old unreleased rehearsal tape (from the archives of a soul label) that was only recently put out on Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series and subsequently became a pivotal part of the film Blue Valentine.

Why did it take 40 years? How much are we still missing?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The comments on that thread are strange indeed. Neglected bands are said to include: The Smithereens? Marshall Crenshaw? The Church? The Pixies? The Bangles? CHEAP TRICK?
posted by escabeche at 7:14 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two of the legitimate obscurities on that list, the Push Kings and Bishop Allen, are Harvard bands, which tells you something about Cowen's readership.
posted by escabeche at 7:15 AM on May 9, 2011


Oops, that "You and Me" has been pulled but there's an "official" one here as a music vid with scenes from the film - somewhat NSFW because there's some making out and sexing up.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2011


Ooh, actually let me revise that:

Let it Bee by Voice of the Beehive. Link is to the great poppy I Say Nothing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:21 AM on May 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


I always took "accessible" to mean, "of the artists'/bands' work, which album could you most likely sit a previously unexposed listener down to without them shutting down or running away." The Sporting Life as opposed to, say, "Wild Women with Steak Knives." The gateway drug of albums. That you can at least hang your hat on.

"Neglected," though ... I'm not sure what to do with that word. That album which is a wet and ownerless kitten hiding under a Dumpster? The album which sold moderately but was never given the recognition it truly (for certain values of truly) deserves? Once popular, now forgotten? I would say roughly half of my favorite albums had at least one track played on the radio that I have an actual memory of.

And then there's "pop." I do not even know what that means anymore. It would once have been short for "popular," but that has long fallen by the wayside. Soda pop. Bubblegum pops. Blow pops. It must pop pop pop! Is pop a term of elimination — if it is not metal and it is not prog and it is not rap and it is not country and it is not classical and it is not experimental and it is not techno and it is not mallcore it is pop? Is pop now the last remaining plastic bubble after you have popped all the others?

Ugh.
posted by adipocere at 7:23 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gandharvas - A Soup Bubble And Inertia
posted by Theta States at 7:25 AM on May 9, 2011


Big Plans for Everyone by Let's Active.

*lot* of crap suggestions over there in that thread. Great question though, will definitely check some of these out.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems like most folks take 'neglected' to mean 'never as huge as I thought should have been'
posted by victors at 7:29 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


does he mean "accessible" like "you can purchase it at most music stores and maybe on either Amazon or CDBaby, as opposed to having to special-order it from a single independent label operating out of a shed in DuBuque"

That definition appears in the OED marked as archaic.
posted by straight at 7:31 AM on May 9, 2011


also, I worked in the music industry 25 years ago - with barely an exception, nearly 100% of the music that became very popular was because of radio and 100% of that was determined by payola.
posted by victors at 7:33 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh god, S.F. Sorrow by the Pretty Things is my favorite pop album ever. And it's the first rock opera, to boot.
posted by swift at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Merriweather Post Pavilion was like a dopamine injection straight into my brain. Even though everyone into music knows about it, I think it's something people need to be reminded of periodically for their own good. So, we should raise awareness of it through a series of PSAs.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2011


Humphreys & Keen - The Overflow (2006)
posted by elmono at 7:42 AM on May 9, 2011


16 Lovers Lane by the Go-Betweens.

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express is also quite neglected.
posted by elmono at 7:44 AM on May 9, 2011


Even Kurt Ralske, who IS (was) Ultra Vivid Scene, hates Ultra Vivid Scene's second album, Joy: 1969-1990, but I think it is absolutely wonderful.
posted by Legomancer at 7:44 AM on May 9, 2011


Two of the legitimate obscurities on that list, the Push Kings and Bishop Allen, are Harvard bands, which tells you something about Cowen's readership.

I only sort of keep up with indie music, but I am familiar with Bishop Allen (much more than I am with Animal Collective), only because they got played one of my Pandora or Last.fm stations. The weirdest part about finding new music through Internet radio is that I honestly have no idea at all how popular the tracks I'm listening to are. With normal radio or recommendations from friends or music blogs, there's at least some person somewhere who said, "I like this enough to tell other people to listen to it," but with Pandora, there's just an algorithm somewhere. That says a fair bit about the current state of the music industry, I think, because right now it feels like both everything and nothing is obscure.
posted by Copronymus at 7:44 AM on May 9, 2011


Neglected bands are said to include: The Smithereens? Marshall Crenshaw?

If neglected does indeed mean "never got their proper respect", then Marshall Crenshaw definitely belongs on the list, IMO.

Accessible kinda counts local bands out, too, doesn't it? So I read it as they have to be big enough to be known, have exceptional chops, but still be disregarded for whatever reason. I don't think I've ever listened to "pop" music, but my mind goes to artists like Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, and the most criminally neglected band of all time - NRBQ.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:45 AM on May 9, 2011


The first on that popped into my head was "Jordan - The Comeback" by Prefab Sprout.
posted by davebush at 7:51 AM on May 9, 2011


16 Lovers Lane by the Go-Betweens.
Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express is also quite neglected.


As fine as that album is, it's not quite as "accessible" as 16 Lovers Lane. I'm taking that word as something that would've fit in nicely on pop radio at that time and I think that 16 Lovers Lane fits that term more than any of their other pop gems.
posted by NoMich at 7:51 AM on May 9, 2011


"Vive le difference" by Eggstone. [Pls forgive fan montage video in first link.]

Arguably, "Somersault" by Eggstone.

END OF THREAD
posted by Zerowensboring at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm having the same trouble with the words "pop," "neglected," and "accessible" others are, That said, my candidates, very off the top of my head, are: Other candidates, not strictly "pop" might be Kevin Coyne, One Nation Underground, and Mellow Candle.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm taking that word as something that would've fit in nicely on pop radio at that time

Oh, and I mean American pop radio. The Go-Betweens were completely neglected by American pop radio, but they could've been huge elsewhere. Sorry for not clarifying.
posted by NoMich at 7:55 AM on May 9, 2011


Are we talking about "Unpopular and underrated for their time" or "Still unpopular and underrated?"

Because, if it's the first definition, I'd have to go with anything out of Big Star or Joy Division's discographies. Both were fairly accessible, and didn't catch on until long after their time.

Ted Leo also doesn't seem to have gotten anywhere near the credit or recognition that he deserves. Such is the pitfall of straddling two vastly different genres...
posted by schmod at 7:58 AM on May 9, 2011


Big Star

Yeah, it's weird, right? How was Big Star not a huge band in the '70s?
posted by NoMich at 8:09 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The dBs Like This.
posted by whuppy at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bingham's Hole by the Mommyheads.

Seriously.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of My Mind by Rain.

(wow... everything turns up on YouTube, eventually)
posted by ovvl at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2011


crazy horse's first album is THE lost rock and roll record - it has, among many other great songs, the original version of "i don't want to talk about it", which beats the hell out of anyone who's ever covered it - aside from danny whitten's songs, nils lofgren and jack nitzsche contribute songs and ry cooder plays slide

it never got anywhere and still isn't remembered much, but it's one of 1971's best releases and belongs in any classic rock collection
posted by pyramid termite at 8:17 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hah! Came across this comment from the "previously" link:

>> it would be interesting to rerun this test but add in marketing elements.

> This is why successful music marketing should rely less on graphic image and more on the type of viral marketing the fashion industry uses to great success: getting the people perceived by their friends as hippest and best-connected to tout the product

Check out this old thread resurrected yesterday in MetaTalk in which a sub-par Australian musician, bankrolled by his wealthy father, attempted to use viral marketing to launch a successful musical career, but failed miserably.

Rebecca Black springs quickly into mind, although it probably just illustrates the randomness of the whole thing.

*shudders*
posted by palbo at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2011


The economics of scarcity (or the lack thereof) would also seem to be a big issue these days. Look at how, earlier this year, CAKE and the Decemberists got the #1 albums with numbers that would have been mediocre at best not that long ago. How did they do it? As a fan of both bands, I can tell you: they pushed like hell to move product. The NYT article talks about social influence, but that's a necessity for any album now that we can all find anything we'd ever want to listen to on the web and our problem is culling down to a collection of stuff we can manage to listen to instead of finding enough music we like.

A new album can be very accessible and still be underrated in terms of sales and listening these days because it's just so hard to get exposure. It almost makes the question meaningless given that the playing field has changed so much over the history of pop and rock.
posted by immlass at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2011


How was Big Star not a huge band in the '70s?

No distribution, basically. Everyone who heard the records loved them, but Ardent and their parent label Stax were the victims of bad business decisions that gutted the Memphis music industry and left the band with no one to promote or distribute their work. They got no airplay and even when they did get played on the radio it was impossible for people to find their records in stores.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:28 AM on May 9, 2011


I'm sympathetic to the Dolly Mixture suggestion, but the original version of Demonstration Tapes was self-released in an edition of circa 2000 copies and not reprinted until 1995. You don't need a degree in economics or deep knowledge of the post-punk scene to understand why they never became a household name.

Similar objections can be raised against most of the other suggestions. For the discussion to be interesting and not just another round of "name your favourite underrated pop album" (with everyone using different definitions of "underrated" and "pop"), I think it needs to be limited to artists who made a serious bid for success, had the support of a big label and yet failed for whatever reason. Like Jobriath, say.

In my opinion Scritti Politti's Cupid & Psyche 85 should have been an even bigger hit than it was, like at least as big as Please or Songs from the Big Chair. The timing was right (middle of the decade, synthpop not yet outdated), the singles were strong ("Absolute" and "Wood Beez" should be enough, but then you throw in "Word Girl", "Hypnotize" and "Perfect Way"), the Fairlight sound must have been new and exciting (it still is), and I believe the critics loved it (it's a critics' favourite now, at any rate). Don't know what went wrong there.
posted by Modlizki at 8:30 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow! I am really digging the Eggstone, Zerowensboring. I knew this thread wouldn't disappoint.
posted by naju at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2011


Toy Matinee.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:33 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, I love these kinds recommendations!
posted by kuatto at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2011


'Pop' that isn't popular yet? Hmmm. And 'accessible' is perilous because you can't really judge a genre you haven't listened to enough to know what's special.

A few years back, Weezer's Pinkerton wudda been a shoo-in, but that's been been getting it's due. Early Wire has also been spotted. As a band Furniture is still mightily overlooked ... but there's no particular album to point at.

Edit's Certified Air Raid Material is genius but only 'accessible' for a subculture. The Streets wonderful debut Original Pirate Material was accessible all the way to UK#10, but inaccessible to the US top 100 (as if the UK were a subculture). Likewise for Blur's wonderful, extremely musical Parklife ... UK#1, US#MightJustAsWellHaveBeenBulgaria. Ah well, at least the US noticed DJ Shadow ... who drew an audience any US muso would (or should) die for.

It may be that we've all become sophisticated enough listeners now that there won't be any more Slim Whitmans or Bill or Led Zeps or Kraftwerks that can span the oceans and amaze everyone. We've become a tough crowd and know what we like. P'raps that's not all bad.
posted by Twang at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2011


The Brains. Most people probably have heard Money Changes Everything covered by other artists.
posted by Sailormom at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2011


Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician.


Very similar to The Decemberists.


(...)
posted by gcbv at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Pure pop, totally underrated, ferociously fun: Spookey Reuben; the linked song is from the criminally underrecognized and ignored Bed & Breakfast, a double album of pure pop magnificence whose crime was mainly being released 10 years ahead of time. Had Spookey crested at the same time as Passion Pit, La Roux, etc., I'm pretty sure he'd be huge right now.
posted by Shepherd at 9:12 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite pop records is Jon Brion's independently released album Meaningless. The only way to describe this album is acessible, underrated and neglected...oh, yeah, and fantastic.

Jon Brion is the dude behind all your favorite movie soundtracks, and he released a pop album that no one noticed.

It's almost all available for preview on youtube.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


One comment points to an interesting possible answer [Previously on mefi] to why a good album never catches on
No one seems to want to talk about this part of the OP, but I find this fascinating (and intuitive, in my experience). I've met so many people who treat music fandom like they were rooting for football teams: "Oh, you like THEM? Ugh, they're awful" or "You know, like frat boys going to a ______ concert" or "Oh man, you gotta hear this experimental noise stuff, it's crazy good!". As signifiers of belonging, in effect.

I can understand the desire to find new, amazing music- it's like a junkie getting their fix after building up a tolerance, they need something new; the same old product songs aren't doing it for them anymore, aren't giving them that high like they used to when they first heard it on the radio, or someone else's stereo, and said "Oh wow, who is this?!". But sometimes I wonder if a lot of people don't really like music that much, and only listen to it because other people do and they don't want to seem left out- or, like bragging about their travels abroad, is nothing more than a calling card for sex: "You should mate with me, I show diverse and cultured tastes and experience signifying affluence and desirability". This experiment lends credence to that suspicion.

The same is probably somewhat true for books and music and other art; while some might be truly exceptional (I'm having a hard time imagining that for example Beethoven's 9th wouldn't be highly regarded in every hypothetical world of "social influence"), most are in an arbitrary muddy middle of mediocrity. And then the only reason the lucky few of those are successful is the network effect/random chance. Someone above linked the song from "Blue Valentine", which I recall hearing about but never hearing as this "undiscovered classic". To my ears it was boring, vanilla, cookie cutter (most music is fairly predictable, really), and unsurprising it wasn't a huge hit... but I can also see how it wasn't really any worse than things that did become hits. As noted above, this is why payola still happens, and why that money is spent: it works.


And I wonder if this is now a handy defense the next time someone suggests that looks don't matter, or to 'be yourself', when really from an early age popularity and attractiveness, and the social and emotional development that go with it and have cumulative effects throughout life... are all a matter of random chance or lucky breaks. Everyone who's been through an American public school knows how being popular or shunned can seem to have hinged on a single event in the right grade at the right time, and that was that- the rest of your school career is set in stone whether you even realize it. Heck, get an ear infection at just the wrong time in your childhood development cycle, and your asymmetry will ensure you die alone and unloved.

Even in adulthood, people are liked... because other people like them. People believe in "confidence" because surely that means other people must trust/value this person, after all the person says so themselves simply by being "confident"! And all the scam artists, MLM marketers, all the abusive SOs, lying politicians, and conniving co-workers do nothing to break us of this ingrained pattern. And someday we'll elect one of the Bush twins as President, because people will begin to mindlessly parrot "Her opponent is so stiff, like a school marm! But she seems like the kind of girl you'd want to snort a line of coke with..."

posted by hincandenza at 9:33 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


gcbv: Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician.

Very similar to The Decemberists.

(...)


Now, now, gcbv. We wouldn't want the noobs making any purchases they would later regret.


Well, son, a funny thing about regret is...
posted by el_lupino at 9:54 AM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Walking on a Wire by Lowen & Navarro. You'll recognize one song on that album - they wrote Pat Benetar's "We Belong." Here's their version. Also from that album: "Walking on a Wire."

They had a huge following in the D.C. area because of HFS giving that first album a lot of airplay. They also were phenomenal live - they countered the emotional intensity of their songs with hilarious stage banter in which they sniped at each other. Sadly, Eric Lowen developed ALS, and they're no longer able to perform together.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:56 AM on May 9, 2011


I covered Ann Arbor music for seven years at the beginning of the decade, and there's frankly nothing like local rock to answer this question with: The artists are de facto obscure, because they never caught on outside of Southeastern Michigan, never got picked up (I think the biggest label involved is Polyvinyl), but still made absolutely fantastic music, mostly on home studios.

Instead of one, here are ten albums that deserve to be heard but never made it out of Ann Arbor:

1) Dabenport — s/t (Video for "Sit at the Bar")

Warm, fuzzy, Nashville-meets-Berlin country Kraut with boy-girl harmonies. The perfect wistful music to play while you wait in an airport.

2) Animal — Light Trucks (Executive Bird records)

Now only available by emailing Aaron Nemec (for a while he'd put it up for free online), it's got the same kind of genius that makes Guided By Voices so much fun when they're on — quick, accessible and kind of goofy songs about full metal briefcases and beasts with guns. His new band is Drum Kit, and he's now based out of Lafayette, Indiana, and they're pretty decent too, though Drum Kit's songs are all about twice as long.

3) The High Strung — Moxie Bravo (A digi-best of on Band Camp).

The High Strung, who by all rights should be a MeFi favorite (they did a tour of public libraries in every state, for chrissakes) finally had one of the songs from this five-year-old album chosen to be the theme for the Showtime show "Shameless." It's perfect trio power pop played sharply. I'm glad they're finally getting some real media coverage.

4) The Rants — Get Back Into It! (AllMusic has snippet previews)

Somewhere between a spazzy Fred Schneider and a bouncing Joe Jackson, The Rants made this album at the beginning of the nascent "garage rock" explosion in the Detroit area, and were promptly ignored. Lead singer Ian Saylor has a bunch more music, but the band was always better than the sum of its parts. Too bad the drinking/not drinking divide was too much within the band.

5) Cornish in a Turtleneck — "It's Broasted!" (Myspace, Inexplicably still extant Tripod site)

Amazingly, at the time they claimed they'd never listened to Ween, but their spazzy basement tapes about gondola rides and x-acto knives are right up Gene and Dean's alley. Weirdly, their Booty Tape got passed off by Found Magazine as a "discovery" nationwide, when everyone in town knew who was behind it.

6) The Fuzz — Noise Destroyers (iTunes link, also available on Amazon)

"Noise Destroyers" is the follow-up to "The Soft Bulletin" that the Flaming Lips should have made, instead of the disappointing "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." It's funny, rich, druggy and dense in a way that rewards repeated listens.

7) The Waxwings — Shadows of… (Video for "Clouded Over", Amazon link)

Shimmering, jangling pop genius. A lot more rock than their first album (which means that they alienated a bunch of fans), and a lot less polished than their third (which was kind of by-the-numbers), The Waxwings are now best known as "That band that guy who plays rhythm guitar in QOTSA was in a while ago."

9) Saturday Looks Good To Me — All Your Summer Sounds (Video for "Meet me by the Water", Amazon CD link; vinyl versions of songs are rougher)

Somewhere between Martha and the Vandelllas, King Tubby and any number of girly indie rock bands since, SLGTM was the brainchild of Fred Thomas (who also put out killer emo-punk with Lovesick and killer uh… other stuff with Flashpapr, and a few great solo albums), "All Your Summer Songs" just absolutely nails the feeling of possibility and ennui and late summer parties in a way that makes it timeless and gorgeous and a little sad.

10) The Avatars — Never a Good Time (From their label, No Fun Records, video of title track, with bad sound for some reason).

Bouncing New Wave power pop in the vein of Blondie or Martha and the Muffins, The Avatars are now cursed (like the Rants) with having chosen a name that sixty billion other bands (and movies) have used, making it hard to search for them. But the album is solid all the way through, and sounds great played loud.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


also, I worked in the music industry 25 years ago - with barely an exception, nearly 100% of the music that became very popular was because of radio and 100% of that was determined by payola.

well, that and timing. You could have had all the kings horses and all the kings men at your disposal in 1980, but your disco album would still have flopped, whereas two years previous ...

And not just timing in such a broad way as this. Just the sheer complexity inherent in a song being written say, in June, rehearsed and mucked about with through the summer, finally recorded in the fall, but then it took forever to get it mixed down and mastered, so that it's the following March before it's finally pressed and then it just sits there for a while waiting for the record label to figure out how it's going to market it, and then the drummer throws his back out while helping his dad dig a drainage ditch ... such that finally, a year later, the band's on tour, the records are in the stores, the payola's earned the radio play ... but holy shit, everybody's looking the other way because you're a hair metal band and Nirvana just killed hair metal three weeks ago ...

And so on.
posted by philip-random at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2011


Ok this maybe obscure for a mostly US, anglo-centric audience but my vote is for Peterlicht - Vierzehn Lieder. Weird, slightly buddhist, german, very pop and totally approachable. Sonnendeck was the big hit.
posted by mr.ersatz at 10:18 AM on May 9, 2011


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

<3
posted by Slothrup at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2011


Any love for Hefner's Fidelity Wars? Because I think it's gotta be up there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight, which more subsequent artists have thieved from than be counted.
posted by blucevalo at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:34 AM on May 9, 2011


(the Jellyfish recommendation at the original site's comments 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.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:37 AM on May 9, 2011


Not sure how poppy they are, but these are all underrated and accessible....

Moonraker - self-titled. Electronica, but very catchy. Check out Shalom, IBM, Salimander Skin, These Walls, & the Rescue.

Jackson Sisters - Self-titled. Poppy, catchy R&B. (I believe in) Miracles was the big hit single, but the entire album is great (especially Boy, You're Dynamite)

It's a Beautiful Day - Self-titled. Psychedelic rock from 1968, but accessible. White Bird is probably the song that got the most airplay, but the whole album is worth listening to.
posted by Challahtronix at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2011


Palomine by Bettie Seveert - criminally obscure Dutch band.
posted by ComfySofa at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2011


Bollocks... Bettie Serveert
posted by ComfySofa at 12:18 PM on May 9, 2011


"Pop" and "accessible" and "underrated" are all such vague terms.

Having said that ... and only considering the 21st century, I nominate The Format's Dog Problems, and Lovers' I Am the West.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty much everything Robyn Hitchcock has ever done.
posted by whuppy at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2011


Palomine by Bettie Seveert - criminally obscure Dutch band.

Fuck yes. I would take Dust Bunnies over Palomine, but you cannot go wrong with either!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2011


Colossal Youth^, by Young Marble Giants. Influential on Cobain and others, so it pretty much gets its critical due these days, but most have never heard of it. [thanks y2karl]
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on May 9, 2011


The Connells, Boylan Heights (or maybe Ring).

16 Lovers Lane by the Go-Betweens

Fun fact: all of The Go-Betweens' albums before 16 Lovers Lane have a double-L in the title.
Send Me a Lullaby, Before Hollywood, Spring Hill Fair, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, and Tallulah.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:19 PM on May 9, 2011


+1 to the Big Star and Ted Leo comments. People know about Big Star by now, and I guess people around my age who were hipsters in the first half of the 2000s know about Leo, but I don't think many people really appreciate that he writes really literate, well-crafted pop songs.

Pretty much everything Robyn Hitchcock has ever done.

Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight, which more subsequent artists have thieved from than be counted.

Fuck yeah. Underwater Moonlight is one of my favorite albums and every track is a gem.
posted by nath at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2011


Does Zombies' Odessey and Oracle count?
posted by jnrussell at 1:27 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does it have to be western? Oh! Penelope's Milk & Cookies is catchy, accessible, melodic and largely in the western tradition of pop music. Each song explores different pop tropes; while the album holds together melodically, it's amazing that it's the sole album of a single band.
posted by eschatfische at 1:33 PM on May 9, 2011


posted by whuppy at 1:49 PM on May 9, 2011


Louis XIV put out one perfect glory of an album in 2005 (The Best Little Secrets are Kept), another very good one in 2008, and then broke up. You may have heard their single "Finding out True Love is Blind" in commercials and movies.

Louis XIV are heavy testosterone swaggery American rock. David Bowie declared them one of his favorite new bands back in the day, the board of education in Alabama banned them from a gig at a high school for encouraging "possibly irresponsible acts", and most people have never heard of them. They put on a beast of a live show.

This is a video for Paper Doll, which I believe is technically SFW but features sexy ladies in skimpy outfits. The Best Little Secrets are Kept is pretty much my favorite album ever.
posted by jess at 1:50 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The two greatest records, front-to-back, that I absolutely love that not a single other person I know listens to without me having told them about it:

Bobby Birdman - Born Free Forever (sorta electronic - sample 1 sample 2)
The Star Room Boys - Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Others' Hearts (country - sample)

Unfortunately, the Star Room Boys is out of print and the BB is on a label (HUSH Records) which has absolutely no interest in selling records. A friend of mine owns a record store and he wants to carry the BB but the label will not return his emails or calls and no one seems to distribute their stuff. You can apparently buy direct from them but why would you take the chance when the label doesn't bother to answer their emails? Ever. (He's literally been trying for years to get them to return an email/call.)
posted by dobbs at 2:22 PM on May 9, 2011


Bran Van 3000, Glee
posted by radiosilents at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2011


I still can't believe The Format aren't just insanely rich and famous. Interventions & Lullabies, their first album, is pure wistful pop gold. Youtube highlights: "Snails" acoustic, "The Compromise", "The First Single" live.
posted by joshuaconner at 3:22 PM on May 9, 2011


Back when I worked at a record store, we practically wore out our promo copy of E's second album, Broken Toy Shop. E went on to start the Eels, which have a harder, rockier edge, but his solo albums are pure pop. BTS is mysteriously out of print, so I suppose you could be forgiven for finding it through less-than-legal means, not that I would endorse such a thing. (Reportedly, E thinks of the album unfavorably, for reasons that entirely escape me. I mean, Tomorrow I'll Be Nine is one of the best things he's ever written.)

By the way, BTS was produced by Parthenon Huxley, whose solo work is also fantastic and sadly neglected.
posted by gern at 4:51 PM on May 9, 2011


The Grays - Ro Sham Bo
Optiganally Yours - Optiganally Yours presents: Exclusively Talentmaker!
posted by nimsey lou at 5:27 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


154 and counting answers

154 is my answer.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:51 PM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


My answer would be "Proof Through The Night" by T-Bone Burnett. It took me two years to track down a copy of the cassette and I think it was reissued, but only 5000 copies were made. Some of the songs made a retrospective, "Twenty/Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett", unfortunately my favorite song, "Stunned" didn't make it.

Pretty much everything Robyn Hitchcock has ever done.

I agree, "Element of Light" and "Globe of Frogs" still get played a lot at my house. I have a painting based on "Sleeping With Your Devil Mask".
posted by black8 at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2011


Oh, and MeFite Joe Lisboa put out a couple of pretty great slept-on power pop albums under the band name Lisboa back in the day.
posted by klangklangston at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2011


Of course, if any of these bands actually became popular, we wouldn't like them any more.
posted by joannemullen at 9:34 PM on May 9, 2011


Odd Numbers - About Time
The Hoodoo Gurus - Magnum Cum Louder
posted by stp123 at 9:45 PM on May 9, 2011


I find myself with a unambiguous answer: Blue Tomorrow by the Swimming Pool Q's.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 10:12 PM on May 9, 2011


I'm always surprised the Aluminum Group hasn't had the wild success they richly deserve.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:20 PM on May 9, 2011


Any of the early Apples In Stereo albums, in particular Fun Trick Noisemaker and The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone. Sunny 60s power-pop with modern studio mastery and indie overtones. Catchy, sometimes upbeat, sometimes slower, but always well crafted pop gems. These albums sailed by the late 90's with hardly any notice, although the Apples have gotten quite a bit of recognition lately.

I have a real softspot for this type of music, great pop music which was never actually popular, or bands who were dismissed as one-hit wonders. Perhaps it is just because I came of age in this era, but I have found a veritable treasure trove of late 90's and early 2000's music that seems like it could easily have gone multi-platinum in that it is well-produced, listenable, crafty, and full of hooks, yet hardly anyone has heard of or was looked down on. Bands like Presidents of The United States, Ween Imperial Teen and Brian Jonestown Massacre. I think the music industry and listening public was just in a very different place at the time and a great bunch of music was created but never picked up on.
posted by sophist at 11:16 PM on May 9, 2011


I'd suggest that the Scritti Politti albums that are neglected and underrated are pretty much all of them except Cupid and Psyche (not because it's not good, but because it really was very successful) - in particular Songs to Remember and Anomie and Bonhomie: the former is an affectionate post-punk tour around various styles of pop combined with playful deconstructionism (one track is made of two completely different arrangements spliced together in the middle, another plays the wordless original guide vocal side-by-side with the completed vocal); Anomie and Bonhomie is a mashing together of pop, loud guitars and rap which crackles with hooks and marvellous moments.
posted by Grangousier at 11:41 PM on May 9, 2011


This is an amazing thread: and I just wanted to throw one more in here: Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
posted by stratastar at 8:09 PM on May 23, 2011


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