While I wouldn't say I listen to the most popular bands all of the time, there is one band who's popularity is so negatively correlated to the high esteem I hold them in that it thoroughly astounds me: Sleeping in the Aviary
I came across them when I bought 2 albums from their label, Science of Sound (who I previously found out about through the fairly brilliant Pale Young Gentlemen), and they emailed me to say "thank you". When I emailed back saying how nice their label looked, and how I'd buy more music if I had more money, they decided to throw Sleeping in the Aviary's second album in with the other two. What lovely people. As it turned out, the SITA album was way better then the albums I actually paid for.
Their first album is a fun-enough, poppy, punky romp that's not too special in any respect, but their second, Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel, moves them in a folkier direction and is really something special. The first thing that really stood out to me when I first listened to EVIACH is the lovely, noisy energy that assaults your ears on the majority of the tracks, and the sombre restraint on many of the others. The musical aesthetic and the sometimes singing, sometimes screaming vocals would be appreciated by fans of Violent Femmes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pixies and other American indie-rockish-lofi-type-things.
Lyrically, the album is one of my favourites. The lyrics manage to be incredibly funny and self deprecating whilst still retaining, what I hate to refer to as, an emotional punch. I'd say their just as entertaining and interesting to listen to as Pavement or NMH's lyrics.
The standout tracks (for me) would be 'Gas Mask Blues' & 'Everybody's Different, Everybody Dies' on the louder side of things, and 'Windshield' & 'You're a Party' on the quieter. There isn't really a track I don't like on the album, although I would say that the first track, 'Write On', is definitely the weakest musically and lyrically.
According to YouTube, their live shows are fucking amazing, and are probably the only good reason for someone from London to be jealous of those who live in Minnesota.
Here is some evidence:
Also, their website is truly brilliant.
They have a new album, Great Vacation!, coming out later this year, which will apparently be yet another change in direction. I eagerly await it.