Synthpop music has been around for a couple of decades now, kick-started in the 1980s by bands such as Depeche Mode and The Human League. Current artists like Goldfrapp, Hot Chip, and La Roux bring the synth-pop and electropop style into the modern age. I wrote a feature on synthpop forums a while ago so thought I’d follow that up with post on the five best synthpop websites and blogs, including the newly-launched synthpop site The Electricity Club.
Chi Ming Lai is a former feature writer for Electronically Yours. He’s now branched out and has just launched his own synthpop website (with a little help from some friends) called The Electricity Club. TEC aims to feature the best in new and classic electro and pop, as evident from recent posts: an exclusive interview with Visage‘s Rusty Egan, reviews of releases from the likes of Goldfrapp and Marina & The Diamonds, and a competition to win tickets to see Heaven 17 at this year’s Bestival.
I met Chi at a gig in Sheffield recently and was impressed by his boundless energy and obvious love for and knowledge of synthpop music. And fortunately for the website, Chi’s quite the schmoozer: it wasn’t long before he was off to set up interviews with Mark Jones (Wall of Sound), Heaven 17, and Paul Humphreys (OMD).
As with Electronically Yours, The Electricity Club has no search or comment system yet, but each story is linkable for easy re-tweeting and there are related pages on Facebook, Last.fm, MySpace and Twitter.
Electronically Yours is the most well-known synthpop website but its roots are obvious from the web address: league-online.com started out as a Human League fan website, but has since grown to encompass all-things synthpop and electropop with a particular focus on current up-and-coming bands. Site owner Rob “Orac” Windle has steadily built an archive of news and reviews, ably assisted by an expanding roster of talented contributing writers. Several bands are “special” to EY (Marsheaux, Parralox, Katsen, and current faves Ou Est Le Swimming Pool) not least because many have been featured on EY’s own record label.
Although essentially a blog with multiple contributors, Electronically Yours opts for a website design approach. Consequently there’s no way to search the site, no comments system, no RSS feed, and it’s difficult to link to articles as they all have the same URL. These design niggles aside, I read Electronically Yours on a weekly basis since there’s no other blog as dedicated to synthpop, and no other website that has introduced me to more great bands over the years than this one. Orac’s passion for the music is obvious and that’s part of its charm – he writes with conviction about the music he loves and he clearly feels strongly about how the electro scene is portrayed and promoted.
With the Human League due to make a comeback this year, Electronically Yours has promised to re-focus on these pioneers of synthpop, but I’m sure the dedication to new synthpop music will remain.
Softsynth is a Canadian blog that spotlights “electronic music in all its forms.” Created by veteran blogger and writer Charles Crosby, Softsynth has showcased some great bands recently, including Chew Lips, The Girl & the Robot, and De/Vision. Whereas Electronically Yours and The Electricity Club are strictly no-guitar zones, Softsynth has a more diverse approach to electronica: provided there’s an electronic twist, both new and established bands are well-represented. Charles has a professional and eloquent writing style and isn’t afraid to say what he doesn’t like about an album or band. This leads to a balanced blog that’s worth reading thoroughly rather than just clicking the band links.
It’s refreshing to get a Canadian viewpoint on the European synthpop wave, and Softsynth can be depended on to highlight the North-American electro bands often overlooked by websites this side of the pond. I also like the occasional Softsynth features that do more than review music: posts such as “Have Depeche Mode become irrelevant?” , “Electronic cover versions” and the “Bands We Miss” segments. As Charles says: “I want to talk about new releases, new artists, trends in the business, whatever; I will vent the spleen on all things electronic, EBM, darkwave, ambient, industrial, synthpop, hybrid, drum-and-bass, and yes, even techno.”
Electro and Pop is a French-language synthpop blog that has almost daily updates. This site is overflowing with reviews and new artist spotlights: if there’s a new synthpop band, you probably read about them here first. Stephen has been steadily growing Electro and Pop over the past couple of years and now includes artist interviews and features along with the reviews.
As with Electronically Yours, Electro and Pop has lots of photos of pretty girls and their synths, and the Blogger hosting means that you can comment, search, and link to individual posts. In E & P’s blogroll they say they like the Pansentient League – le sentiment est réciproque!
Modern Synthpop is a WordPress-powered synthpop and futurepop blog with a clean design and layout. Run by American Chuck Frey (“I’m a huge fan of fascinating, multi-faceted synthpop music“), the website is divided into categories that include features, reviews, resources, and videos. As well as Marsheaux, Depeche Mode and Mesh, Modern Synthpop is a big supporter of synthpop label A Different Drum. Recent posts on the blog include an interview with Christopher Anton (vocalist from Information Society) and a Pet Shop Boys concert review.
Some Other Great Synthpop Sites & Blogs
Here are a few other sites that feature synthpop (amongst other genres):
- Release Music Magazine
- Side-Line Music Magazine
- The Electronic Garden
- Groovin You