Updated: Aug 1, 2022
The 2000's have given us a plethora of fantastic indie and alternative albums coming largely from the US, the UK, Canada, and France with this era and the mid to late 90's making up the larger golden age of indie music. A handful of great records seemed to slip through the cracks never quite receiving the acclaim and hype they deserved. In no particular order, here are five of the most underrated indie records of the last 22 years.
OK Go - OK Go (2002)
Before OK Go was known for their creative and quirky music videos, OK Go was just another band trying to establish their ground in the everchanging indie realm. With a bit of a diverse debut album with sounds of post-punk and grunge, heard in the opening track Get Over It, and then the bubblegum indie pop sounds encompassing the majority of the remaining songs on the records, their debut was an early 2000's alternative rock gem which completely fell under the radar, when it was not being ripped apart by critics. Apart from the cringey and strange track C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips with its creepy and breathy lyrics, there really are no throw away tracks, or even songs of little interest on the 40-minute LP. Tracks such as Don't Ask Me have that classic, loud and angsty early 2000's alternative rock sound and still hold up to this day with its catchy licks and lyrics. Even Your So Damn Hot which attained some distain from critics at the time is undeniably catchy with it's playful lyrics and 80's inspired keyboard. Even in it's brutal review from Pitchfork, Matt Stephens, acknowledges that the record is hummable, and the band has an ear for an "occasional good hook." Good music is catchy, and what's wrong with that? This probably won't be a record that will change your life, but that does not have to be the standard we hold EVERY record too. OK Go's debut is catchy, well put together, and a feel-good record, it doesn't have to be The Suburbs. With painfully honest and heart felt lyrics snuck in throughout, such as in Return, there's a lot to like here, and we have ourselves a great debut from one of the bigger names in indie rock.
Favorite Track - Don't Ask Me
Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (2006)
Dear Catastrophe Waitress took on a louder, more room filling and more developed sound which carried them throughout the mid 2000's. The Height of the Belle and Sebastian indie rock gold came in 2006 with The Life Pursuit scoring a 9.5/10 based on Melophobe standards in our review. Although the record received a good amount of praise across the pond peaking at number eight in the UK charts, and the singles doing pretty well themselves, the record found itself more under the radar in the US being outshined by many other indie records of the day. With some groovy guitar and bass work in tracks like Sukie in the Graveyard and Another Sunny Day fused with the heartfelt poetic nature of Stuart Murdoch, The Life Pursuit checks all the boxes for a great album and missed out on the hype it deserved. Although loved by critics and B&S fans alike, the level of sucess should have been higher. With sounds of 60'pop groups such as the Kinks and Beach Boys, you can feel the sun shining through the record from the Sun Factory studio where it was recorded in Los Angelas. An all-around serotonin lifting record producing Belle and Sebastian's catchiest chorus of all time in The Blues Are Still Blue. Holding true to their roots, the somber indie-pop sound still cuts through beautifully in tracks such as Dress Up in You, and Mornington Crescent. Why this wasn't one of the biggest indie records of 2006 is still a mystery, but what we have here is an album which has aged very well, and only got better with time.
Favorite Track - The Blues are Still Blue
The Orwells - Terrible Human Beings (2017)
The Orwell's third studio album was a great record that almost nobody knew about and received mixed reviews at best from critics. This 2017 underground beast produced some of the best sounds of raw Chicago rock heard in years. An explosive, and powerful record filled with ripping distorted guitars and also the lighter and jangly guitar work of their brethren across the indie world. With the opening track They Put a Body in The Bayou coming out of the gate with attitude and purpose, the track finds itself with some sadistic and dark lyrics adding to the excitement. A simple enough record in terms of chord structure and song form, it's a real easy listen not necessarily trying to change the world. Opening guitar hooks such as on Heavy Head will remind you what these guys are all about with some help with the loud moving bass guitar under the vocals. Black Francis takes a nod back to the father of alternative rock Black Francis of Pixies (ALL HAIL). A super cool song, with Pixies-esque guitar, and backing vocals unnervingly sounding like Black Francis himself. You have to respect nods to the forefathers of alternative rock whenever they come around, and especially when they can be done in a tasteful, and groovy manner as the guys did here. The Orwells took a cue from the White Stripes with their minute and 26 second action packed song Buddy. A minute and a half of pure energy. Terrible Human Beings has the best of garage rock and post-punk while taking influence from all the best places. An album which truly did not receive any of the glory it deserved.
Favorite Track - Black Francis
Mom Jeans. - Best Buds (2016)
Another album which did not make much of a dent in the mainstream but was loved by those who discovered it themselves or through friends. A record from the world of emo and in an impressive way, Mom Jeans combined emo, math rock, a bit of post-punk into one of the premiere underground emo records of the last two decades. First things first, these guys nailed the song names with tracks like Vape Nation, Scott Pilgrim vs. My GPA and Edward 40hands but to the delight of the listener, these songs are much more than the clever song names with some of the finest guitar work of the year. This album is filled with catchy, yet lowkey guitar riffs such as on Death Cup, Poor Boxer Shorts, and Edward 40hands. They even got the guys from Bob's Burger's on the record to open up Edward 40hands with a bit of back and forth. That track has some fantastic things happening with a relatively complex song from plus a half time feel chorus. Seamless, yet technical drumming carries a good amount of momentum when need be and backs off in the softer parts. Mathy, and unique guitar work is heard throughout the whole record, something I wish I could say more about their recent records.... Nevertheless, the softer acoustic guitar is brought in throughout the record such as on Scott Pilgrim vs. My GPA, Movember, and Vape Nation adding a ton of color and variation to the delight of the listener. Even a 50's inspired groove opens *Sobs Quietly* before building into a drum pounding and banging' chorus and outro. Sneakily, Austin Drango might be the real show stealer on Best Buds with his incredibly impressive and tasteful drumming. An incredibly superb album all around that deserved a lot more credit than it got. All 36 minutes are worth the listen every single time, and if this is one you have not heard, toss it in the rotation.
Favorite Track - Scott Pilgrim vs. My GPA
The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic (2000)
Now this album is an interesting one. The debut by the Canadian supergroup was LOVED by critics and overtime has received A LOT of well-deserved praise as this album was way ahead of its time. With all that being said though, it never charted, and to this day has not been listened to all that much with only three of the twelve songs garnering more than a million streams on Spotify, with head bangers like Fake Headlines and Mary Martyn Show having about 200,000. Power chords, loud drums, large unison choruses, and a fanfare like sound are all heard in what I would confidently call the catchiest album of 2000. Songs like Mass Romantic, come in blazin' with bouncing and driving guitars before the confident and powerful vocals comes in shortly after. The debut by The New Pornographers more than anything showed that the real songwriting talent here is found in the singalong style choruses in tracks like The Body Says No. This song practically make you rip the steering wheel off your dashboard. Nothing says New Pornographers more than loud, singalong choruses which you'll hear all through this record, and on later records like Twin Cinema with Sing Me Spanish Techno, and The Bleeding-Heart Show. Perhaps the Canadian supergroup reinvented power-pop in the indie realm a bit before the world was ready, but what were left with is this timeless staple of indie rock. Along with this album, The New Pornographers are another vastly underrated indie band with a great catalogue of music.
Favorite Track - The Body Says No.