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Say there are two records in a band's discography and neither of them is bad. What's a better term than "worse" to refer to one record not being as great as the other record? Since both records are good, using the word "worse" might mean to some people that the record is bad.

What other terms or phrases could be used so that something won't be painted in a negative light in comparison to something else?

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    The normal way to indicate that one thing is the better of two good things is something like this: "Both records are good, but Abbazabba is better [or even better] than Zabbaabba. – Sven Yargs May 11 '15 at 5:05
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    Not as good ? – ermanen May 11 '15 at 5:14
  • I say: both are great but the second one is not my first [choice]. – Eilia May 14 '15 at 7:24
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  • They are both great compilations. But the 2nd album is the lesser of the two.
  • The brothers are extremely good lawyers. You may trust your criminal career in their hands. But, the younger is the lesser experienced.
  • These wedding cakes are fabulously huge. One for you and one for me. But I want the lesser one.
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I don't think inferior has the 'bad' connotations that are to be avoided.

adjective
1. lower in rank, status, or quality.
"schooling in inner-city areas was inferior to that in the rest of the country"

(Google)

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For your specific situation, less popular or less well-received are commonly used.

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"The band has made two equally great records. Those who prefer X!X lean towards.... while those who prefer y/y go for a more ...."

However, since a suggestion improving clarity of writing or thought does not answer the question: The band made two almost equally good records. The preferable record is their first. The less preferable record was their second. That is, the first is especially good, by comparison. The second is about quite as good. It is almost as good.

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