Pavement//Slanted & Enchanted (1992)
Though this wasn’t considered underrated due to its lavished critical praise, it received a perfect 10 that Nadia Comaneci would be proud of in the NME, it is the thought of Pavement not receiving the coverage they thoroughly deserve that makes it so underrated. Their inspirational debut helped shape 90s alternative America and the lo-fi slacker generation. Stephen Malkmus’ obscure, hilarious and sarcastic lyrics helped turn Pavement into an influence on their contemporaries, including Weezer, Beck and Guided By Voices, and they were the sound of generation-xers who were wondering what to do with their lives. Despite this, their music still refuses to merge with the mainstream masses despite such phenomenal albums, including Slanted & Enchanted and follow up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. They deserve the same mass recognition that the critics have realised since the band’s conception and Slanted & Enchanted should be a household name to all music fans.
The Shins//Wincing the Night Away (2007)
Arguably The Shins’ finest hour, this bittersweet indie pop release from Albuquerque’s finest was not given the attention it deserved. Though, with “Turn On Me”, they briefly reached mainstream approval, it wasn’t enough to launch them into the big leagues. James Mercer’s cryptic lyrics are sometimes hard to understand, but sounding so good, as “Australia” and “Split Needles” do, it doesn’t really matter to the listener. Despite consistently releasing quality albums, The Shins continue to hide in the background, while some of their less illustrious colleagues reap the mainstream rewards.
Titus Andronicus//The Monitor (2010)
New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, named after the William Shakespeare play, produced one of 2010’s underrated classics. This epic and ambitious concept album, is set amongst the American Civil War as a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of modern day New Jersey. Borrowing heavily from Bruce Springsteen’s and Billy Bragg’s sound, but still sounding original and iconoclastic, it is a drunken and rebellious rollercoaster ride through a turbulent era. Including recreated speeches from Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, William Lloyd Garrison and Walt Whitman, it sounded completely different to any other of 2010’s releases.
The Replacements//Tim (1985)
You may not know it, but The Replacement’s Tim was one of the most important releases in American alternative rock. Though they never had any commercial success, they helped influence a new generation of musicians. They were the first American underground rock band to sign to a major label in the eighties, before R.E.M and Husker Du, with Tim being the result. “Hold My Life”, “Bastards of Young” and “Left of the Dial” are voice-of-a-generation anthems, the sounds of suburban alienation and despair, whilst the balladry of “Swingin’ Party”, with its self-deprecating twist of hopelessness and insecurity, was an early footprint for the grunge sound. The success of Tim inspired many of their contemporaries to follow their lead, with the album influencing countless bands and also acted as the template for the alternative rock explosion in the 1990s.
Sunny Day Real Estate//How It Feels to be Something On (1998)
In the nineties, while most of Seattle was gripped by flannel shirts and the grunge sounds of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Sunny Day Real Estate were busy putting emo rock onto the map. Third album How It Feels to be Something On, recorded after their reunion, was their defining moment. Whilst the band had split up briefly, drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel were acquired by Dave Grohl for his new project Foo Fighters, but Goldsmith returned to appear on this album, though Mendel did not and was replaced by Jeff Palmer. The spiritual feel of the record is both discouraging and uplifting, while the album’s sound, a mixture between art rock and progressive rock, is almost trancelike. It is a collection of songs that flow coherently and is hard to find fault amongst the album. It was also one of the best albums of a highly nostalgic and creative decade and certainly an important and influential album for the ensuing decade.