23 Criminally Underrated Albums You Should Listen To Right Now
If you ever feel like 99 percent of music is trash, that's just because trash people have been forcing trash music on the radio for decades. Meanwhile, bands have recorded a wealth of quality music, enough to entertain you all day, every day -- but no one's ever played it for you.
We asked our readers to name underrated albums, some by famous artists, some by people you've never heard of. Click through these selections, and not only will you learn some new songs, but YouTube will spend the next month flooding your recommendations with even more good music (rather than showing you angry people complaining into the camera).
Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux (2008)
Brady S. calls this the band's best album. “Nobody remembers it because it didn't spawn a radio hit,” he says, "but that's actually part of its charm. It should be taken as a whole, and it smoothly jumps from genre to genre, with frontman Patrick Stump flawlessly nailing baritone lows and falsetto highs."
SR-71 - Now You See Inside (2000)
This was a "near-perfect rock album that came out when I was in middle school and is still in rotation for me to this day," says Bill T. "Underrated in its musicality, it hits on damn near every level of the sense. A great album by a great band that seemed to drop off the face of the earth." It's true -- we had trouble believing we'd even found SR71's official Vevo channel when we saw it has only 6,000 subscribers.
Blind Melon - Soup (1995)
Says Rachel C., "This experimental and dynamic masterpiece has had a place in my regular rotation for over 20 years. It is the definition of criminally underrated, and was released just weeks before Shannon Hoon's death." Ryan H. notes that it "didn't get the airplay their debut did and fizzled after Hoon died," but it had "a bunch of great songs, very stripped and raw."
Smash Mouth - Astro Lounge (1999)
Hold your Shrek jokes. "It does feature 'All Star'," admits Chris W., "but it also has a different style for every track and they nail it." Katy S. calls it a "super fun album," while Jordan P. says, "People laugh when I tell them how much that album rocks, until they actually here it for the first time!"
Alice In Chains - Sap (1992)
"They did in four songs what most bands can't do in twelve," says Jason P. That's right -- Alice in Chains released a four-song album (five, counting hidden track "Love Song") that adds up to less than 20 minutes of music. It stems from the time they got together to record just one song, and they ended up demoing a handful of other stuff the same day.
Music From And Inspired By Spider-Man (2007)
Rhonda C. picks out this oddly titled soundtrack release, pointing out that "about one song is actually from the movie, and the rest is rock, alt rock, and punk fun." Robert S. agrees, saying, “And that's even though I hate alternative rock in general. This is sort of a compilation of the good stuff from the late nineties and early '00s.”
Mad At Gravity - Resonance (2002)
“Such a great album from a little-known and short-lived band who only ever put this single album out before splitting,” says Gavin B. "The album is excellent from beginning to end with some excellent hooks and clever lyrics." These sentiments are echoed by reader Anthony B., who, um, was a member of Mad at Gravity. Also Matt M., who wasn't part of the band but did play with members.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)
"I didn't discover the depth and breadth of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds until I was 39," says Craig D. "What a wonderful surprise it was." We're guessing he'd heard "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" already, but there's other stuff here.
Gorillaz - Gorillaz (2001)
"Gorillaz is known only for 'Clint Eastwood'," says Paul I, "and there are so many gems in there. Alyssa C. agrees: "The album, as a whole, is severely underrated. The album sold so many copies because of 'Clint Eastwood', and only diehards seem to appreciate the other solid gold tracks."
Thee Hypnotics - The Very Crystal Speed Machine (1994)
Nick A. calls this album "dirty low-down psych blues with a gospel glimmer. A complete turn-around for these Stooges-inspired Brit rockers on their third album. Produced by Chris Robinson of Black Crowes fame, a perfect side to their Southern Harmony and Musical Companion album. Not available on any streaming services and extremely hard to find, it's well worth grabbing a copy if you come across one."
Devin Townsend - Epicloud (2012)
A bunch of readers mentioned Devin Townsend. "I'm always baffled that more people don't know who this guy is," says Rich J. "Devin Townsend is an epic genius," says Michael W. "I don't cotton to the Ziltoid stories so much" (Townsend released a couple different albums about an alien named Ziltoid) "but his other work is brilliant."
Blue Oyster Cult - Fire of Unknown Origin (1981)
Yes, everyone knows Blue Oyster Cult, says Craig C. "They know 'Burnin' for You'. Probably know the title track from this album, but the whole thing is so deep. The fact that 'Joan Crawford', 'Sole Survivor', or 'Veteran of the Psychic Wars' aren't widely loved is a crime."
Trans-Siberian March Band - Running Away with the Circus (2016)
Ping L. gives us an unusual selection: the Trans-Siberian March Band. "Nobody does re-imaginings of traditional celebration tunes from the Balkans, Russia, and Turkey with London flavor quite like them!" says Ping. "And 'Usti Usti Baba' is the ultimate get-on-the-dancefloor song is there ever was one!"
They Might Be Giants - Flood (1990)
Penny L. calls this "the only album that I loved the first time I listened to it. One of my top five all-time favorites! The song 'Minimum Wage' is brilliant -- who knew you could say SO much in a 43-second song with only two words." Hearing that, we thought maybe the song consisted of the duo repeating the words "minimum wage" over and over again, but here's what it really is:
The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (1969)
"Of course it's well known," says Sam B., "but it's generally neglected by critics as a minor throwaway. Actually an EP rather than a full album, since only half the tracks are Beatles songs, the songs create a microcosm of the Beatles' sensibility that's unlike any of their other albums." Jim P. loves "Hey Bulldog" though he says John Lennon himself didn't. "Cool riff, silly lyrics, but for me, I love hearing them have fun in the studio."
Revenge Of The Killer B's (1985)
We're not listing an artist for this one -- this is a compilation album. "It looks at the B-sides of singles that were monster hits," explains Stephen K. "So you get Fleetwood Mac doing 'Cool Water' or The Pretenders doing 'Money' or Marshall Crenshaw and 'Somebody Like You'."
Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)
"When people talk about Radiohead," says Paul B, "they talk about OK Computer, Kid A, or their mega single 'Creep'." But he picks In Rainbows. "The album isn't as gloomy or experimental as their later catalogue leans and is filled with absolute gems. Also, their 'From the Basement' live performance of this record is the high bar for studio performances from bands. It's flawless."
Death - The Sound of Perseverance (1998)
"It's a classic death metal album with prog and jazz influences," says Mack J. “It was Death's last studio album, and their cover of Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' is way better than the original! Plus, the instrumental 'Voice of the Soul' is so beautiful it makes me cry every time I listen to it!”
Belly - Star (1993)
Bob W. got a copy of this album by chance in the '90s, as part of some kind of subscription deal, and he had no expectations when he put it on. It turned out to be one of his all-time favorites. "Moody, bluesy, and her voice could make a robot get emotional," he says, of singer Tanya Donelly. "Never heard from the band again after their one hit 'Feed the Tree', but I never thought they got enough recognition. Great solid album through and through."
Dog Fashion Disco - Adultery (2007)
Matt S. recommends this concept album, "about a killer and the detective trying to find him ... It's an absolute masterpiece. The music is all over the place putting in many different genres and sounds and is just brilliantly written."
Hurt - Vol 1 (2006)
"In the mid-'00s," says Thomas S., "everything on rock radio sounded like Nickelback or Hinder to me. 'Rapture' came on one night and offered something so unique and sinister. Every song is a dark dive down a strange rabbit hole."
Screaming Trees - Sweet Oblivion (1992)
Christopher F. heard "Nearly Lost You," on the soundtrack to the 1992 movie Singles, so he hunted down Screaming Trees' album. "The entire thing is great," he says. "I spent winter break from college '93 and '94 working overnights at Walmart, and my coworkers banned me from bringing this CD to work anymore because I played it too much."
Sir Mix-A-Lot - Chief Boot Knocka (1994)
Every track on Chief Boot Knocka is a "sub-shaking funky tour de force," says Mike T. "Cannot believe it's not considered a classic."