Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2010: Part I

2010: the resurgence of synthpop continues… I’d expected synthpop and electropop to start to wane after last year’s vintage crop, but if anything the opposite has happened: the number of quality synthpop albums released over the previous 12 months has been phenomenal! There were a good 50-odd albums released this year that could have made it onto this list (and that’s excluding releases that weren’t strictly synthpop, such as the much-acclaimed Hurts album). But after many hours of listening, lots of note-taking and a bit of electro-soul searching, here is the first part of the Pansentient League’s Top 20 Synthpop Albums of the Year!

.

20. Chew Lips – Unicorn

Album-of-the-year for softsynth, Unicorn is an excellent synthpop album to kick-off this Top 20. Every song hovers around the three-minute mark (making for a very short album), but each displays multiple layers of sound and hooks that would be more then enough for an album twice the length. Lead singer Tigs has an impressive voice: up there with Tracey Thorn and K.D. Lang, and while it took me a wee while to get into this, the more I listen to Unicorn the more I like it.

.

19. The Girl & The Robot – The Beauty Of Decay

This debut album from The Girl & The Robot is full of brooding, introspective synthpop that leaves you feeling both melancholy and strangely uplifted by the end. (The girl) Plastique’s vocals are the perfect foil to (the robot) Deadbeat’s sparse but intricate electromentation, and The Beauty Of Decay is a mature album of two sides that rewards repeat listens. In many ways, it fills the gap left by Thermostatic (albeit without the chip-pop) and that can only be a good thing.

.

18. Neuropa – Plastique People

This is the seventh album from Australia’s Neuropa, a band who only came to my attention recently thanks to Conzoom Record’s excellent on-going electropop series of compilations. If you like the “pop” in your synthpop, this is the album for you: fun and bouncy, the obvious touch-points here are Erasure and early Depeche Mode. A few tracks cross over into more of a futurepop sound (a Military Fashion War perhaps), but mostly this is 2010’s purest synthpop release.

.

17. Tikkle me – Tikkle Me

I have spotinews to thank for putting me onto Sweden’s Tikkle Me. I’ve played this one loads and love its kookiness; they’re like the new Zeigeist with vocals reminiscent of Karin Dreijer (The Knife, Fever Ray) or Kate Bush. The album’s full of memorable songs, each with its own oddness that might not be for everyone (in a kind of Björky way) but if you like it you’ll probably REALLY like it.

.

.

16. Vision Talk – Elevation

Vision Talk‘s second album is instantly likeable, and takes them from their earlier italo-disco sound into a Scandinavian synthpop vibe that keeps on reminding me of the brilliant S.P.O.C.K. and Apoptygma Berzerk. After a brief crisis of faith, the band recently signed a new record deal with Conzoom and seem in such good spirits that they’ve released a free Christmas song on their website!

.

.

15. Ashbury Heights – Take Cair Paramour

The brilliance of Ashbury Height‘s swansong (and much-delayed) album got lost in the fuss surrounding lead singer Anders Hagström’s outspoken rant against his record label. That’s a shame, since Take Cair Paramour is an excellent album and my personal favourite from the band by a long shot. The production on this is first class, and new vocalist Kari Berg suits these anthems perfectly. Always a favourite of the more gothically-oriented electropop fans, the quality of songwriting stands up against whatever you may think of the personalities behind the band. One track in particular (“Crescendo”) sends shivers down my spine and shows how gloriously bombastic Ashbury Heights can be: they could have been the new Sparks

14. Goldfrapp – Head First

The first “major” release in this Top 20, Goldfrapp returned in 2010 with an album that presses all the right buttons (none of that folktronica experimentation from their last album). Some fans were disappointed by the disco feel and return to synthpop, but for me Head First is Alison’s best album yet (but then I always was a sucker for a good ABBA song!) The album’s three singles also had some cracking remixes: Vince Clarke‘s Blue Monday-flavoured mix of Believer is a particular favourite of mine.

.

13. Slave Republic – Electric One

Germany’s Slave Republic released their debut album on Accession Records, home to futurepop artists Assemblage 23 and SITD.  It’s full of catchy electropop and New Wave songs that put me in mind of IAMX and Duran Duran at their best. Sure there’s some guitar in the mix, but top tunes like Less Of Me and The Driver make Electric One a valuable addition to any synthpop fan’s collection.

.

.

12. Robyn – Body Talk

Proof (if any were still needed) that Sweden is now well and truly the home of synthpop, Robyn is the global phenomenon who once-and-for-all settles the debate over whether synthpop is an accepted (and acceptable) genre. Body Talk Pt. 1 came out in June, with Pt.2 in September and finally the “full” version at the end of November. I’ve probably listened to Pt. 1 the most, but now that all three are out you can probably stick with the 15-track full version and not miss too much (except Cry When You Get Older which is fab). The lyrics on Body Talk don’t hold up to too much scrutiny, but that’s missing the point: this is synthpop to dance to, not ponder. Little Boots and La Roux may have opened up the mainstream to synthpop once again (at least here in Britain at least), but while they’re off looking for the next sound to plunder it’s Robyn who’s come back to steal the synthpop crown.

11. Color Theory – The Sound

Color Theory is Brian Hazard, the multi-talented singer-songwriter who’s released a multitude of albums since the early 1990s. The Sound is a wonderful mix of “electronic indie piano pop” with synthpop and electro trappings brought to the fore on most tracks. Sounding a bit like an American Martin Gore (earlier track Ponytail Girl” is allegedly frequently mistaken for a Depeche Mode song), the laid-back vocals are both soft and dreamy.

A special mention must also go to himitsuhana‘s original artwork for The Sound: my favourite sleeve of the year!


.

All these albums are available to listen to on Spotify (just click the album title or album art).

Read on for the Pansentient League’s Top 10 Synthpop albums of 2010! 

Tags:
  © 2016 Jer White / Pansentient League.
Runs on WordPress. Theme by Theme Junkie