I’ve loved electronic music ever since hearing Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and Equinox albums when I was a kid. I was soon listening to Kraftwerk, OMD, Depeche Mode, and the Human League: bands that are now considered pioneers in electronic dance music, and the inventors of the synthpop genre. It’s quite a broad term, and fans will forver debate whether such-and-such a band is synthpop, was synthpop for a while, or just had one song that sounded a bit synthpoppy. The genre has gone in and out of vogue since the early 80s, but is now seeing yet another resurgence, thanks to bands like Ladyhawke, Little Boots, Lady GaGa, and websites such as the excellent Electronically Yours. The recent triumphant performance by the Pet Shop Boys at the Brits confirmed this and firmly sealed synthpop as a worthy and enduring musical style.
Spotify is a legal way to listen to music-on-demand. After you install and run the program, you simply search for what you want to listen to then press the Play button. The music starts instantly (no need to wait for songs to download!) and you can listen to a band’s whole album as much as you want (unlike in Last.fm) in high-quality audio. And best of all for music fans, it’s all free! You do get one short advert every 20 minutes or so, but you can upgrade to the premium service for about a tenner a month to get rid of this (and you also get exclusive advance releases such as the recent Emmon album). Spotify is adding thousands and thousands of new tracks every week: if your favourite band isn’t there today, chances are they will be soon.
The original 80s synthpop bands are very well represented on Spotify (as I blogged about previously), but what about the Generation Y bands? I thought I’d check this out so I trawled through Spotify and compiled a google spreadsheet of synthpop bands. Many of my current favourites are missing: Parralox, Northern Kind, Schmoof, Onetwo, Starbase 109, Marsheaux… but if you search about, some modern synthpop gems emerge. So I’ve compiled a Spotify Synthpop Sampler – a 17-track compilation of the best of modern synthpop on Spotify:
- Client – “Here and Now (Extended Mix)” – Client open the playlist with the extended version of one of their best songs. There’s loads of Client to choose from on Spotify: pretty much all their albums and singles. I just pre-ordered their new album Command from musicnonstop. I was a bit disappointed with Heartland, but the Untitled Remix album had some great tracks on it so I’m looking forward to the new one.
- Freezepop – “Photographic” – A cover of the classic Depeche Mode track, just to remind us where we came from. Spotify has the latest 8-track Freezepop remix EP, as well as their most recent album Future Future Future Perfect.
- Komputer – “Headphones and Ringtones (Mister Midi Mix)” – This is a Spotify find for me, a remix of a track from their recent Synthetik album. I’d bought their World of Tomorrow album a few years ago when they were mere Kraftwerk clones. Sounds like they’ve developed their own sound now and are all the better for it.
- Thermostatic – “The Box (Baby Remix)” – A synthpop remix of a track from their most recent album. Not much of their trademark chip-pop sound, but a fantastic remix nonetheless.
- Rex the Dog – “Prototype (Original Mix)” – A longer version of Rex the Dog’s single from a few years ago. It was chopped down to under 4 minutes for the album: this Original Mix clocks in at over 6 minutes.
- Fotonovela feat. Marsheaux – “So Strange” – Marsheaux provide guest-vocals on a track from fellow Undo Records band Fotonovela. The complete Foronovela album Mistakes are Good is on Spotify and well worth a listen.
- Neosupervital – “Nothing” – I’ve seen this Irish band a few times live now, as they supported The Human League on tour. Originally a two-piece, they took a leaf out of the League’s book and brought in some glamour. Their debut album was a surprise find on Spotify. I hope the band have some more material coming soon.
- Neon Neon – “Raquel” – This band came recommended on the humanleagueforum by member tall tall tall. The album (themed around the life of John Delorean) and singles are on Spotify. Their music is not all synthpop, but this track most definitely is.
- Emmon – “Teenage Kickers” – Emmon’s latest album Closet Wanderings was recently released exclusively on Spotify (much like the U2 album), and although I’ve only heard it briefly it’s already really growing on me.
- Motormark – “Note to Self” – This Glasgow band is perhaps more electroclash than synthpop, but I had to include it here as they’d sent me a really nice note with the CD I bought from them recently.
- Salon Boris – “Bride of Boris” – Poor Boris, Tom is now doing his separate thing and the band is no more. Spotify has a couple of their singles. Their debut album was brilliant, and the second and final album is being “posthumously” released soon.
- Ladyhawke – “Professional Suicide” – Northern Kind genius Matt says this is his favourite Ladyhawke song and that the start of it reminds him of a Fad Gadget track. I think so too. There’s a strong dash of Ultravox in there as well.
- Little Boots – “Mathematics” – current darling of the mainstream, perhaps Little Boots really is the new Synthpop queen. Her EP is on Spotify: Mathematics is only a bonus track but it’s my favourite song of hers soo far (I think because it reminds of a John Carpenter theme)
- Tube-Tech – “Being Boiled” – Once more with the voice of Buddah. This is actually a rather good cover of the classic Human League song. I plan to investigate this band further.
- Client – “Der Amboss” – This is mostly a D.A.F. cover of the Visage song, and dare I say it, it’s at least as good as the original. D.A.F.’s industrial edge provides the perfect crash of the anvil.
- The Knife – “Forest Families” – Lead-singer Karin’s new solo album Fever Ray is definitely worth checking out, but it’s The Knife who I think are one of the few modern synthpop pioneers. I rated their 2006 album Silent Shout my Number 1 favourite album of that year, and I still listen to it loads. It was difficult to pick a track for this playlist, but I settled on this slower track, mostly because I love the lyrics and the chorus “Music tonight – I just want your music tonight“
- S.P.O.C.K – “All the Children Shall Lead” – The playlist ends with yet another Swedish synthpop band: the Star Pilots On Channel K. Spotify has S.P.O.C.K’s three most recent albums and several singles too. I prefer their earlier stuff, but this track is brilliant and a great one to close on.