One of those bands that made an impression on me in 1989-1991 was the Katydids, a band no one's heard of...they made two excellent albums, the first produced by Nick Lowe, and then they were unceremoniously dropped by their label.
How to describe them? Think chiming guitars (guitarist Adam Seymour went on to play with the Pretenders; his guitar is what you hear on their recent catalogue) like the better Smiths singles, but with more optimism to the lyrics (which can be reflective, but are never maudlin). They are led by vocalist Susie Hug, who recently debuted her first solo album called A is for Album. Her voice, with its astounding clarity, might put off some because it's not "interesting" enough--not unique or tortured enough for some. But it works on these two records--particurlarly on the first album's "Read My Lips" and "King of the World."
What's especially tragic is that the second record showed the band was growing and maturing into a seminal pop band. But after that release...nothing. The internet, however, is a wonderful place full of good people, and Adam Zeitz is one of them. His site includes a section on the Katydids that I stumbled upon that includes a discography that stunned me, as I'd only bought the two albums and one of the CD singles released in between. I can recommend both albums, and really any of the singles since they have a lot of great acoustic demos of album cuts. Then, pick up Susie's solo record--it shows a stripped-down sound is a compliment to her still-golden voice. You can find the Katydid's records used in larger shops, or via half.com. Susie's solo record is available at cdbaby.com.