Our critic's favorite underdog albums -- We suggest buying discs from Young Fresh Fellows, the KLF, Meat Puppets, and more

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Scores of albums are released every week. And for whatever reason — record-company indifference, lack of publicity, bad timing, or just plain bad luck-many of the best drop out of sight. Here, then, are some of our critics’ favorite recent pop underdogs (or, all too likely, underdogs-to-be):

Meat Puppets
Forbidden Places
A little bit country, a little bit twisted rock & roll from a quirky Phoenix band.

Boogie Down Productions
Live Hardcore Worldwide
Gleeful concert album that captures the collective rapture of live rap.

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
Perspex Island
Wordplay doesn’t get any more clever — or love songs more sarcastic — than on the latest from this British folk-rocker.

Marshall Crenshaw
Life’s Too Short
Snappy guitar pop from a master of the form.

Bang Tango
Dancin’ on Coals
Proof that funk and soul can be as much a part of a heavy-metal band’s world as leather studs.

Chris Rea
Talented British rocker, a star in Europe but unknown in the States, addresses mid-life concerns.

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If spacey, soulful tunes like the hit ”3 A.M. Eternal” don’t get you moving, you may need to check your pulse rate.

Kool Moe Doe
Funke, Funke Wisdom
Rap keeps evolving, but that doesn’t mean old-school rappers like Dee don’t have a few new-and positive-minded-tricks up their sleeves.

Sam Phillips
Cruel Inventions
Female singer-songwriter who can be tightly wound and undeniably sunny, sometimes within the same song.

Kik Tracee
No Rules
A true rarity: A hard-rocking L.A. band that excels at both stomping metal ravers and sensitive ballads.

Only Time Will Tell
Former member of Exposé squeaks, struts, and belts through adult dance pop.

Son of Bazerk
Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk
Manic hip-hop with dollops of reggae, soul, and hard-core punk.

The Pyschedelic Furs
World Outside
We’d given these veteran British new-wavers up for dead too, until we heard this collection of surprising, sardonic songs.

Young Fresh Mellows
Electric Bird Digest
How can you resist rock & roll this sweet and friendly — and with song titles like ”Sittin’ on a Pitchfork” and ”Hillbilly Drummer Girl”?

Richard Thompson
Rumor & Sigh
Celtic-rooted rock & roll that sounds both adult and deranged.

Terminator X
Terminator X & the Valley of the Jeep Beets
Eclectic proof that rap DJs — in this case, from Public Enemy — can do more than just spin records.

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