These are some of my all time favorite underrated records:
1. Love - Forever Changes
This band never got popular because they didn't tour but this amazing 1967 release should be in the same category as Pet Sounds and Sgt. Peppers. The band completely came up with a style all their own as they dropped the jangly guitar garage rock they had previously been know for.
2. Failure - Fantastic Planet
This 90's band played an interesting form of grunge that was sludgier then Nirvana or Alice in Chains, it had a pop sensibility but had this intenseness that few other bands had. To me the record seemed a bit ahead of it's time but has over the last ten years become a favorite of mine especially the song "The Nurse Who Loved Me."
3. Bauhaus - Burning from the Inside
This album was the last album released by the goth band Bauhaus, recorded while Peter Murphy was very ill, the other members David J and Daniel Ash took over singing duties which later led to hostility and broke up the band. However this album is great although it's not quite as exciting as Joy Division but nears the same level of intensity on the track Antonin Artaud . It takes a lot of those Joy Division elements and moves in a darker weirder place especially in songs like She's in Parties. Overall my favorite Bauhaus record and you can really see the birth of Tones on Tale and Love and Rockets coming out of this session.
4. That Dog - Retreat From The Sun
Sadly the last That Dog record before they broke up, however the most stunning of their career and clearly an influence on bands like Mates of State and other pop acts. This 1997 album was supposedly intended to be Anna Waronkers first solo record however if you listen to her actual first solo record "Anna" it's missing all the charm of the Hayden sisters. This record is so catchy and just perfect from beginning to end and it's sad that it didn't garner the band more success. Possibly this record is in my top 5 albums of the 90's. From the first epic track to songs like Minneapolis and how Anna sings "Your so dreamy for a boy from Long Island", it's all sounds like it should be the soundtrack to some amazing 90's indie flick.
5. Pavement - Brighten the Corners
The Pavement record that supposedly was their attempt at being more mainstream. I think it shouldn't be a sin for a weird noisy indie band to try and grow a little musically and put out a great pop album. For me this is the Pavement record that I enjoy from beginning to end and don't skip any tracks on. It represents a time where radio was trying to play only dark grungey junk and finally a band like Pavement breaks through with a song like "Shady Lane". I'm not trying to diminish the success they had with "Cut your Hair" and the other songs on Crooked Rain Crooked Rain but it seemed with Gary Young's departure and the bands attempt to be more mainstream gave this album a bad rap when it's another of my favorite albums of the 90's. I look at it like Nirvana's Nevermind, just because Kurt said it was his version of pop songs doesn't mean it's not intense and great in it's own way, kind of like Pavement's attempt at mainstream rock is still pretty interesting and never feels trite or forced.
6. Wax - Thirteen Unlucky Numbers
Mostly known for the Spike Jonze video with a guy running to catch a bus while engulfed in flames this record was way more then the short songs "Southern California" shows. This album is from one of those great bands that takes all of their influences like everything from the Pixies to Husker Du and create something new and interesting from it. This record is the pinnacle of their career and never got the attention it deserved.
7. Pixies - Bossanova
Pretty much regarded as the beginning of the end for the Pixies, an album where Frank Black sort of took over the creative reigns and stripped away some of the abrasiveness that the Pixies had become known for. This record is much more pop then anything they had ever done and more cohesive then dare I say "Doolittle". Two high points include Velouria and Dig For Fire which were leaps in a different direction for the Pixies and makes this one of those rare gems of an album that never really gets talked about. The video below was in response to the record label forcing them to make a video.
8. Jawbreaker - Dear You
Considered the sell out album that killed their career, Dear You presented a more polished Jawbreaker and never came anywhere close to selling as many copies as 24 Hour Revenge Therapy but in recent years with the band acquiring the rights and releasing it on their own label Black Ball Records this has become a staple of most 25-35 year olds record collections. The record seemed way ahead of it's time and seemed to be the spark that ignited the sound of many of the Vagrant Record bands from 1999-2003.
9. Weezer - Pinkerton
Considered a complete failure at the time of it's release this album was written by Rivers Cuomo while he was under the influence of painkillers because of a painful leg surgery. It was said the whole album was written using only the first position on his guitars fretboard so he wouldn't have to move around to play. I consider this possibly the best album of the 90's and unfortunately Weezer never again would write anything that sounded like this album. This possibly is the most underrated record of the 90's.
10. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
A record that Robert Smith has said he despises, however it's one of those records that just has something about it. It's raw energetic and simple. When thinking of The Cure most people think of Disintegration but this debut album seemed to be ahead of it's time with riffs and bass lines similar to the Pixies. The band seemed to almost have a punk edge in the late 70's that disappeared completely by the time they wrote their next record, this could be due to the firing of Mick Dempsey who supposedly was not thrilled with the material that Smith was writing for their follow up record "17 Seconds".
11. Nada Surf - Proximity Effect
I saw these guys along with 12 other people at the Loop Lounge in Passaic Park, NJ when they were still promoting this album. I picked it up that night and found not only an album that I consider to be amazing but I found a band that I consider to be one of my biggest musical influences and as well influenced me to never quit on something if I really believe it is good. This was supposed to be their 2nd major label release but it ended up being self released by the band and lead them to their deal with Barsuk where they met with much indie success on their following three albums. This album has some of their most honest and heartfelt songs like Amateur and 80 Windows. The song Hyperspace pretty much has been on every mix tape and playlist I have made in the last 10 years.