Category Archives: Spotify

Why I Love Spotify and Think You Should Too

A couple of years ago I was helping out at an electropop night in London and got chatting with Rusty Egan, DJ and maestro behind 80s synthpop legends Visage. I mentioned that I wrote a blog about Spotify and he was perplexed. Not because he didn’t know what Spotify was – the music-streaming service had already started to enter the mainstream psyche – but he couldn’t see how someone could dedicate a blog to it.

“Well, there’s a lot of misconceptions and rumours about Spotify,” I started. “And most folk like us, who grew up with vinyl, don’t seem to ‘get’ it. It’s a harder sell if you’re used to owning music instead of renting it.”

Rusty looked at me quizzically.

“But what do you write about?” he asked. “Why do you think Spotify is so great?”

So this is what I told him:


Supporting the Artists

why1There was a story that broke at the end of 2009 about how Lady Gaga had only received a paltry £108 return from over a million streams of her single “Poker Face” on Spotify. This was reported with alarming frequency, and used to prove how much of a rip-off Spotify was for the artists. Many bands declared their disgust and intention to remove their music from the service ASAP. Here was “proof” that streaming music services were doomed to fail.

But some simple fact-checking showed that this figure was way off the mark.

The £108 Gaga figure was in fact only a fraction of the total payment to her label (it was to STIM, the Swedish collection society: payments are also paid to publishers and to the artist’s record company), and it was only for a short period of time in one country after Spotify had just launched.

Five years later, I still get this thrown at me as evidence that Spotify rips off struggling artists. I point out that it’s not as if before Spotify came along, record labels were there solely for the benefit of artists: of course not. Music is a business just like it’s always been. The men-in-suits have always taken a huge slice of the pie. The artist’s cut has always been small, way before Spotify came along. The difference is that now for the first time, artists have the chance to regain a bit of control, to re-direct some of the returns Spotify hands out. Indie bands can use Spotify as a platform to publish their music directly, without the need for a label or artist management.

So artists now potentially have a much larger cut of the total income than pre-Spotify. And if they don’t want to receive the endless trickle of cash from music streaming services, the “take my stuff off of Spotify” process is so easy it’s practically a single-click.

Spotify themselves are still a relatively young business that’s only just turned a profit in 2013 (in the UK at least). Despite impressive user stats, globally there’s still not enough people prepared to pay the monthly fee. But things are changing fast. According to the BPI, streaming music services generated £103m of revenues in the UK in 2013 (around 10% of overall UK recorded music revenues). Spotify say they’re now generating more revenue each month than iTunes, at least in Europe.

Spotify’s website for artists ( claims that over 70% of their revenue goes straight back to rights holders, so it’s clear that some artists can and have made a killing from streaming services. Of course there’s a question of scale: rich bands get richer but smaller bands cannot hope to make a living from streaming services alone. For them, Spotify is more of a way to get their music heard, to entice potential fans who wouldn’t have bought a CD or a download to maybe come along to a gig instead.

The bottom line is this: to support an artist, you should go to their gigs and buy their CDs and merchandise and special-edition re-releases. But then when you get home, listen to the band on Spotify so that they continue to receive a little bit of cash each time you play one of their songs.

Comparing revenues for artists from streaming music services like Spotify with download “unit sale” models like iTunes just doesn’t make sense. That’s like comparing a TV show’s viewing figures with its DVD sales. A better comparison is with radio plays or YouTube hits. While these both currently exceed Spotify in terms of listener figures, the pay-out for a play on Spotify is far greater compared with both radio and YouTube.


The Collectors (Ownership vs. Rental)

why2Like any other middle-class middle-aged man, I like to collect things. With the march of time my boxes of vinyl have given way to bookcases full of CDs and DVDs, in turn succumbing to hard drives bulging with WAVs and FLACs and MP3s that I’d meticulously organise and tag and label.

When I discovered Spotify at the start of 2009, one of the first things I did was to take photos of my carefully organised CDs then use HTML to link up the images to Spotify. I used an “image map” to link each CD spine to the corresponding album on Spotify. I could then web-browse my collection “visually” in the by-genre organisation I’d created over the years. Despite a few gaps (no Beatles, no Rammstein etc.) it worked pretty well as a digital interface to my real-world-collection.

Then a few months later I sold most of my CDs, deleted all those MP3s and switched to the rental model of Spotify entirely.

And I’ve never looked back.

There’s a common argument against the music rental model that goes along the lines of: “What if I stop paying for Spotify, all those albums (playlists) I’ve collected will be lost! If I’d bought the CD instead I’d still have them.” This is true to a degree, but don’t forget that even if you move back to “free” Spotify, your playlists remain: they’re never deleted. Worrying about “lost” artefacts (i.e. the physical CD) is a vestigial angst that you’ll soon get over.

Despite my middle-agedness I’m still a rapacious consumer of new music, so Spotify’s tenner a month is saving me heaps. I do still buy CDs at gigs (see above), but mostly now I just swim in Spotify’s stream of music, with access all areas. Just like the television license required to view BBC content or a Netflix subscription, Spotify’s pay-to-access model provides vast choice to suit all tastes. For me, gone are the days of ripping CDs, backing up WAVs and tagging MP3s. What a waste of time all that was!

But even now I do still “own” one type of music-related digital artefact that’s very precious to me: my playlists.


The Playlist is the Mixtape

The modern version of a mixtape is the Spotify playlist. Just like a mixtape, a Spotify playlist is a form of expression that can display its own ingenuity and diversity, made for my-ears-only or sometimes for that one special person. Spotify lets me choose the songs in the mix and the song placement and the shareability: I can keep it to myself or I can share it with the entire world if I like.

I often spend days crafting the perfect playlist. I’ve made Spotify playlists that try to tell the story of my life (or a special weekend or a love affair); others that soundtrack my science-fiction stories, and others that spotlight new synthpop releases to my blog followers. My playlist “Music Inspired by the Movie Drive” has around 25,000 subscribers and every few days I get a random message from someone saying “Thanks for your playlists!” I’m no musician so this is perhaps the closest I’ll get to having “fans”. There’s a huge sense of satisfaction when one of my playlists goes viral, something I could never have imagined happening in the past with that boxful of C90s.

So the joy of a home-made mix has not been killed by the arrival of streaming music services: far from it.


Music of Quality and Distinction

You probably know someone like me, a guy who’s listened to too much music for too long. Who has tinnitus – a permanent ringing in the ears. Mine came on at a gig by the awesome band Broadcast at King Tut’s in Glasgow, 2001. I was standing right next to the speaker stack for the show’s duration, and it was a time when the band were going through their “experimental feedback” phase.

You live and learn.

But despite this aural handicap, I still like to spend a little bit extra on my audio gear and sneer down at the 128kbps-toting teens and their white lead earbuds. The limit of human hearing is 20kHz and I know I’m some way down from that, but I can still appreciate good audio quality nonetheless. So the first thing I do when I install Spotify is to ramp up the default Music Quality setting to “Extreme Quality.” This delivers music in an Ogg Vorbis(ish) format at better-than-320kbps MP3 compression, ripped from label masters with gapless playback and crossfade options.

For me that’s quality enough.



why3Soulseek, Kazaa, Suprnova, eDonkey, OiNK. The Pirate Bay. What all these shady download tools had in common was ease-of-use and convenience. When pirating an album was quicker and easier than buying it, that’s a huge temptation, especially when you’re strapped for cash. I know a heck of a lot of people who were tempted that way.

But then Spotify came along and changed the rules. With a peer-to-peer backbone (just like the Pirate Bay) and Swedish chops (just like the Pirate Bay), Spotify made it even easier to get your music: you search, you press play, you sit back and listen. Now there wasn’t even the need to wait for the download to finish (and sort and tag and add album art). The music was there instantly! This convenience trumped piracy: Spotify Free was a game-changer and people still downloading illegal MP3s are both wasting their time and living in the past.

Step One of Spotify’s gameplan was to shift the pirates to a controlled, legal system that gave something back to the artists. Not a lot at first of course, since it takes premium subscribers and their £10/month to grow Spotify’s royalty payments. And it’s a lot easier to shift mindsets from free-to-free compared with from free-to-paid.

Step Two i.e. getting users to pay a little bit for all that music is an ongoing goal that for all our sakes I hope succeeds. Because otherwise, for many it will be back to the Bay and all that clawed back revenue for the industry will have been lost again.



But really when it comes down to it, the most important thing for me is music availability. I want my music right here, right now.

For all intents and purposes, Spotify lets me access all the world’s music (except for AC/DC, Radiohead, a few others). Today they have 36 million tracks that I can stream instantly to my main hi-fi system, to my phone, my tablet, my car… my playlists are always with me and always available.

Most new albums arrive on Spotify on the day of release, and because I “follow” the bands I like, Spotify sends me a message whenever there’s a new release.

And if I do happen to get bored of the music, I can always trawl Spotify’s vast catalogue of audio drama, comedy & stand-up, language courses, self-help audiobooks, sound effect albums, classic speeches… all the audio I could want is always and instantly available to me through Spotify.


Fade to Grey

why4Music is one of the most important things in the world to me. It’s in my “Top 5 Things I Could Not Live Without” list and it’s probably not far behind air/food/water. I’ve lived long enough to see a fair few format changes, and so I’ve bought many favourite albums multiple times. But now I’ve finally left the mediums behind me: now it’s just about the music.

I told Rusty Egan that I’d bought some Visage albums on vinyl back in the day. He nodded and gave me a cursory smile.

I then told him that I’d added some Visage songs to my “Golden Hour of Synthpop” playlist on Spotify, a playlist that had a few hundred followers and growing.

His smile widened to reveal those pearly whites of his.

“Oh,” he said, “that’s pretty good. Thanks very much!”

I’m glad Rusty’s music is on Spotify. For me that means it’ll never fade away and is always just one click away.



Interview with DeepHouseHQ

The Fastest Way To Get Quality Deep House Out Now –  GUARANTEED!” That’s a bold claim made by DeepHouseHQ, a Spotify-friendly blog that specialises in deep house, chill-out, and other related sub-genres of electronic music. Site owner Pov Vysniauskas kindly spared some time to let us know what his site is all about.

Over to you Pov!

How did your site get its name?


Since the start of the blog (2010) I have changed its name several times. The first name we had was, but that was more an impulsive spontaneous decision influenced by few pints of beer and some friends. A lot has changed since then… speaking about how much I know about SEO, marketing, the music world…. having said that, choosing the current version of the name was more a strategic decision and involved analysis of search engine optimisation as well as analysis of our content and our targeted  crowd.  We needed something clear, obvious and still catchy so the recent name change to DeepHouseHQ  came as a best solution.

 How long has your site been running for?

We have been in the music market for quite a while. I started the deep house music blog when I was at my first year of university with the intention to share deep house playlists and other music I liked with some of like-minded friends. Since then, the blog became one of my addictions and it went through many changes in design, functionality and content as well as targeted audience. Sometimes, honestly my free time starts and finishes online.

 What styles of music do you cover?

We fall under the label of electronic music, actually to be precise and more specific  90% of our music is deep house. The rest falls under titles such as deep tech-house, chill-out and minimal. A lot of influence on our shared music has artists,  music labels and  DJs like Darkside, Noir music, Rembo music, Solumun and Nicolas Jaar.

 What makes different from other blogs?

I believe we present ourselves with a sense of humour: that’s one of the main  differentiators. It is really important to us that we differentiate ourselves from other deep house music blogs. That said, we  relate our name with quality deep house,  a sense of humour and blog posts with nice pictures to compliment the articles. We want the deeephousehq blog to be not only a place for your ears, but also “heaven for your eyes” too.

So the image we are trying to develop here are more or less reflecting young and progressive people. We also are very selective on the music we post and if you’re listening  to any  playlist, track or mix on our site that means that music has our stamp of approval.

Why do you blog?

Solomun - Love Recycled 1 (Original Mix)

Music is part of my life, and sharing my music taste is a hobby which makes me really happy. Blogging combines a number of my interests together in one  place. After countless hours of work it became a big part of me; it’s a really nice feeling to see the positive comments and get a chance to work with DJs I like. I blog because I love to share music and it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot about branding, blogging and SEO. I have already learned tons and I have enjoyed all my time on this blog. Deep House HQ to me is a game, a hobby, a way to express my thoughts and a place to learn new things.

Do you have other blog contributors?

Yes!  Though I take the lead and decisions for  blog development, to do everything on my own would be too much! My team includes IT/ Technical support  which is done by my brother Martynas, an  IT architect. Logo Design is done by one of my good university friends Deividas, who studies graphic design. And finally some of the content and music is provided by my mate Mack. These guys helped a lot in different ways, and helped push the blog forward, especially Mack and my brother.

How do you decide what to write about?

98% of our content is written on the spot while listening to a track. I would say most of the content is based on emotions, recent experiences and adventures. The rest are pre-planned articles written by freelance writers.

jaarWho are your favorite bands and artists?

My music style is based on deep house, acid-jazz, chill-out and minimal  so it is very hard to list names. I would say my favourite DJs and music labels would  be: Sasha, Noir music, Darkside, Nicholas Jaar, Zabiela and Solumun.

 Name a band you love that no one else seems to have heard of

Well, this is a very good question! We recently published an article featuring Top 100 deep house tracks  that no one else seems to have heard of , a lot of the music there are produced by unknown bands/ music producers but my favourite though is Nicolas Jaar.


Many thanks to Povilas Vysniauskas for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out his site at!

Interview with Indiekingss

indieIndiekingss is a new Spotify-centered blog about indie music. Site owner Ryan Freeman got in touch to tell us about the site, so I persuaded him to tell us some more…

How did your site get its name?

Well, I picked up the name Indiekingss when I started sharing music on tumblr, but I couldn’t seem to gain much traction in getting attention. I still use tumblr all the time, but not for sharing music. Nevertheless, the name lived on, and made it to my full website. The name was a good fit, because it sends a straightforward message about what you can expect to find on our site. The name also plays on the fact that most indie fans want to be the best hipster they can be. They want to know as many talented, underground, and unheard of bands as possible. It’s up for our readers to decide whether we are throwing down the gauntlet, or just being facetious. Lastly, it’s a little bit obnoxious, so it’s easy to remember.

How long has your site been running for?

We’re essentially a newborn baby blog, we only got started in mid-October 2013! When my friend and I got started, we decided to use WordPress as our web design tool; It has given us tons of flexibility, and that decision also allowed me to focus primarily on generating content. We’ve tried really hard to pack our site with articles and playlists,  so visitors can explore as much as they like, and not hit dead ends! It has  been a busy few months for us, and we’ve got some big plans for the future! In the short term, we’ve got plans to do online interviews with Hotel Cinema, The Zolas, Kid Runner, Young Liars, and Slow Runner. Writing that last sentence is mind-boggling for me, because those are some of my truly favorite bands right now!

What styles of music do you cover?


I think most of the genres covered on our site fall under the umbrella of either indie rock or indie pop, but more specifically: electro, synthpop, post-punk, lo-fi… I could go on all day with that list, but honestly I dislike this part where we dissect these bands and squeeze them  into universal categories. I would rather group songs together by what sounds good while you’re driving or working out. So if you’re still curious to know what kind of music would be covered on our blog here’s a few rules: 1) If a band has rock or pop influences were going to give it a listen. 2) If the band is in anyway influenced by the 70’s or 80’s well try them out. 3) Lastly, and most importantly,  if a band is idiosyncratic or obscure then we’ll write about them.

What makes Indiekingss different from other blogs?

It is really important to us that we differentiate ourselves from other indie music blogs and outlets. I mean, were primarily fans of musicians that explore different routes in music, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for us to have a conventional blog about them. With that being said, there are a few things that make us different from the normal music blog. Firstly, we take a different stance in the indie music community then most blogs. We are all about keeping the momentum behind the artists we love, and we gravitate toward the little guys. Our goal is to promote as many talented underdogs as possible.

Secondly, we’ve yet to tear anyone down for making music we don’t like. That doesn’t make any sense. So instead, we just ignore them. If you’re reading about a band on our site that means they have our stamp of approval.

Thirdly, we put together massive themed playlists that range all the way from 25 Songs You Might Listen to if You Were Flying on a Unicorn to The Best Songs of 2013. Obviously, the former is the one that makes us different from other indie music blogs, not the latter,  to more specifically answer your question.

Why do you blog?

zolasI always find myself reaching out to friends and sharing music with them. I think my friends and I have a lot to offer anyone that wants to be a part of our community. Particularly when it comes to bouncing songs and playlists around on Spotify. I want to create a situation where I can publish a playlist in an article and generate a good discussion about artists that deserve to be included. However, I primarily blog because I have a vision for a clique that will help spread the word about artists they love and help me get the best of the best off the ground. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to start a band and generate any kind of following. Often it’s the bands that have less than 1,000 fans that want it the most and because of internet things like blogs, anyone can help them out! It’s not like you have to drive to a record store and pick out one or two albums you want, then go home and put them on your 8-track. It’s easier than ever to give musicians a chance, and my blog is specifically designed to provide publicity where we see fit. We obviously do all kinds of other fun things too!

Do you have other blog contributors?

Yes I do! Many of my friends have written at least one article and admittedly most of them are better writers than me. But, I work with two people who regularly contribute to the website. One of them is a content creator and the other is a web designer. I wouldn’t have been able to make my vision a reality without them.

How do you decide what to write about?

kidrunnerWe typically focus on three different types of articles: features and interviews from our favorite bands, articles about themed playlists such as 10 Songs Indie Kids Can Twerk To, and classic articles that cover our favorite songs, bands and albums over a specific period of time. We try to mix it up and we are willing to write about anything that seems interesting. Just to reiterate, we are only a few months old, so we are not trying to put up too many stringent rules about what we are willing or not willing to cover.

Do you plan out your posts in advance?

Up until I started this project, I had never creatively written anything, so planning and organizing posts plays a major role in covering up my inexperience; that and making jokes every now and again. It also takes a ton of planning to organize some of the playlists that we put together. At any given time, I’m working on 5-10 playlists for future articles. I mean, I’ll be working on my Best of 2014 playlist all year, but even more unconventional playlists take a ton of time to put together.

How do you approach reviewing an album?

As of right now, we haven’t reviewed any albums. We are sort of at an impasse about whether we ever want to review albums. When we started blogging, writing album reviews was definitely on our roadmap, but now that we’ve got around 30 articles under our belt, it’s starting to feel like we never will. There are a few reasons why we might never take that route: We can keep a 100% positive upbeat atmosphere if were not ripping on other people’s music. I don’t personally ever read album reviews. I decide for myself whether I like a certain album. I might read them after I’ve already formed my own opinion, but reviews rarely sway me one way or another. Sometimes, I read them just to disagree and comment with my own two cents, but like I said, I haven’t decided yet whether writing them for my own blog would be a worthwhile venture. Maybe if our regular readers requested that we do specific album reviews we could do that.

Who are your favorite bands and artists?

hotName a band you love that no one else seems to have heard of

Well, this is officially my favorite question of the interview! We recently published an article featuring 100 Underrated Bands, and while some of them are more popular than others, there is some truly undiscovered talent in that list. But, in the spirit of answering your question with one band I think Hot As Sun fits the bill. They are currently followed by 280 people on Spotify and their most popular song on Youtube, Night Time Sound Desire, has 991 views. That being said, they are badass and definitely deserve more attention.

Which review, interview or feature are you most proud of?

That’s a really tough question, because I’m proud of the various articles for different reasons. I’m going to go with the aforementioned 100 Underrated Bands. It takes a lot of work and time to put those together but in the end,  it felt the best to put that post up because I’m plugging so many of my favorite artists all at the same time. I’ve spoken to a few of our readers that have started to regularly listen to some of the artists on that playlist, so that makes it even more worthwhile!

Thanks very much for you time Ryan!

Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2013

So 2013 then: what another great year for music! Especially if you’re a fan of synthpop, electropop, new wave and the like. From classic-era heavyweights releasing career highlights (OMD, Pet Shop Boys, Alison Moyet) through to expectation-defying returns to form (Depeche Mode, Covenant) and dynamite debuts (CHVRCHES, Vile Electrodes), this past year has shown that the long-form album is still king.

You can listen to what I thought were the best songs of the year here:  Pansentient Synthpop 2013 Spotify playlist. This 200-track playlist has been curated to cut the crap and only present the finest selection. Compare that to Pansentient Synthpop 2009, when it was a struggle to even come up with a Top 40!

There’s been so much great music this year that it was sometimes a struggle to keep up. But if you’re looking for an opinion from someone who lives-and-breathes this stuff, first have a read at The Electricity Club’s End of Year Review 2013, and then check out my choices for the Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2013 below!


It’s Not Synthpop But I Like It

Before we begin, I must mention a few still-electronic-but-not-synthpop albums that I really got into this year:

  • shpongleShpongle – Museum of Consciousness. The best Shpongle album in over 10 years, this is a fantastic journey around the world of dreamy, tripadelic, psybience with a brain.
  • Container 90 – Working Class League. I couldn’t have hoped for more from this: EBM certainly has its limitations and can easily get repetitive, but these Swedes are the only EMBers who can bring something new to the table. Progressing the genre, they mix up social commentary, fuck-you attitude, lashings of humour, and exhausting danceability; all while seeming to have such a bloody good time of it too. There’s even a John Lennon cover here ffs!
  • Benji Vaughan – Even Tundra. The second great Twisted Records album of the year (after Shpongle), this is a beautiful slice of electro-ambience (but not the kind that sends you to sleep after 10 minutes).
  • ivardensphereFront Line Assembly – Echogenetic. What a kick-ass return! Over the decades, FLA have always merged in elements of the sound-de-jour into their music, but the light touches of dubstep here are a stroke of genius. This song “Deadened” is a killer tune, it could well be my song-of-the-year.
  • iVardensphere – The Methuselah Tree. I file iVardensphere in my “Electro-Industrial” folder in Spotify, but tbh these guys defy all classification. This album has to be experienced, it’s an electro-tribal imperative. After every listen I come away feeling that I’ve just experienced something deeply profound, something serious as shit that puts everything else into sharp perspective. I can barely begin to describe it, so instead go read this fascinating and insightful interview with Scott of Ivardensphere over at I Die: You Die.


Top 20 Synthpop Albums

Here’s my first batch of 10 albums:

  • befBritish Electric Foundation – MQD3. Martyn Ware – the godfather of synthpop – teams up with a whole host of star singers for some more music of quality and distinction. Mercifully dropping the funk of earlier outings, this album strips things back to darker synthetics. Covering songs from the 60s to 90s, MQD3 makes you re-appraise songs you didn’t think much of first time round. Andy Bell’s cover of Kate Bush’ “Breathing” is one highlight, as are both Glenn Gregory’s covers. And Heaven 17’s other fine vocalist Billy Godfrey gives Jimmy Somerville a run for his money on Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy.”
  • Carved Souls – Dismantle. It’s been a bit of a hit-and-miss year for Conzoom Records, but this overlooked sophomore album from Carved Souls is definitely my pick of their 2013 releases. The band compare themselves to Assemblage 23 and Apoptygma Berzerk, but personally I think Carved Souls have delivered an album that easily beats those band’s recent releases.
  • spacemarchTorul – Tonight We Dream Fiercely. Slovenia’s Torul have been around for a few years now but haven’t really impressed me much in the past. They’ve definitely nailed it with this infectious and hypnotic album though.
  • Space MarchMountain King. While Parralox took a breather this year with a covers album, Australia’s other great synthpop band gave us a delightful “symphonic journey of retro-electro, classical and dream pop.” Mr. Vince Clarke gave this album a big thumbs up and I’m fully in agreement! “Someone Something Sunshine” is a highlight;  bright but tinged with a little melancholy. “Mastermind of Crime” has some great lyrics, while “Too Much Time on my Hands” is a lovely bleepy bleep song.
  • Social Ambitions – Hunger. I do feel I miss out sometimes by not speaking Swedish, and a fair few of the songs on this synthpop album are sung in that language. But ultimately good songwriting will always win me over, and Hunger has much to offer. A few songs don’t quite hit the mark for me, but the ones that do I can easily listen to again and again.
  • henricHenric de la Cour – Mandrills. This album has been creeping up my play list for a while now, the more I listen to it to more I like. I’ve read about Henric’s struggle with a rare illness, and there’s certainly a slightly foreboding feel to this album. This is introspective synthpop at a superior level, but no matter what the circumstances behind its production it fully stands up on its own merits. Henric’s duet with Susanna Risberg on “Shark” is another contender for single of year, and if you’ve not seen it check out the wonderful video!
  • MarsheauxInhale. I’ve always been a bit more critical of Marsheaux than most of my synthpop peers, but all my complaints are finally undone with this excellent album: I think its their finest work to date. Everything comes together perfectly, from the sharp production and catchy tunes to the vocals and lyrics. Standout songs “Self Control“, “Come on Now” and “Inhale” prove that Marsheaux sound like they’re finally having some fun, and I reckon they’re all the better for it.
  • depecheLittle BootsNocturnes. It sounds like a lot of synthpop purists were disappointed with this album, but for me it’s one that I keep on going back to. Like Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Make a Scene album from a few years ago, it’s the sheer quality of the songs that overrides any modern pop messiness. If anything, Nocturnes is a more consistent affair than her debut Hands ever was: this is the perfect summer party album.
  • Depeche ModeDelta Machine. Well finally! It’s about time Depeche Mode released a good album again, and while there is a bit of bloat filling up this album it’s definitely their best – most electronic – album in years. Of course to some, Delta Machine might be a great blues album ruined by bleeps and squeaks, but at this point in the game any Depeche Mode album that has that spark of genius we know they’re capable of is something to be thankful for.


Top 10 Synthpop Albums

Ten great albums there – but here are my absolute favorites of the year!

Emika  Dva

emikaAfter her brilliant debut album, I thought things had gone awry for Emika with subsequent singles seeming a bit aimless and self-indulgent. So my expectations for DVA weren’t that great, and indeed the first track – an ominous orchestral number – made me think she’d gone the way of The Knife (i.e. up herself). How wrong I was though: since first listening, this album has really gotten under my skin, the sub-bass gone sub-dermal. DVA is an intense, maudlin experience, punctuated with uplifting resonance (“Dem Worlds“, “Sing To Me“) that highlight the superb sound design and production. You can keep your dubstep then: DVA is how I like to rattle my bones.


Noblesse Oblige  Affair of the Heart

noblesseAffair of the Heart is one of those pop albums that’s full of memorable songs. There may be a bit of live bass here and there, but this is most assuredly a synthpop record of the European kind. Highlights include the single “Runaway” (an unashamedly fun slice of synthpop), “Vagabonde” (Anne Pigalle-esque vocals to a disco beat and probably my favorite track on the album), and a cover of the Eagle’s “Hotel California” that, at eight-and-a-half minutes, never outstays its welcome and brings some appropriate electronic atmosphere (and Japanese koto strings) into the mix.



Covenant  Leaving Babylon

covenantI’ve been waiting for over 10 years for a worthy follow-up to 2002’s Northern Light. Both Skyshaper and Modern Ruin were OK albums, but both left me wanting. Now Leaving Babylon finally shows Covenant at their best: it’s full of broody scandi-synthpop, upbeat futurepop and pulsating electronic dance tracks. It may have taken a while to arrive in full on Spotify (I hate those “samplers” they completely ruin the flow of the album), but it was definitely worth the wait. Like VNV Nation, a Covenant song is always instantly recognisable; just this time it all gels together perfectly into one feature-length album that seems to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.


Pet Shop Boys  Electric

psbThe first of four “old order” artists on this list and what a fabulous surprise this album is! Last year’s Elysium album was about the dullest thing I’d heard all year, so I’d as good as written off the PSBs. But then the single “Axis” came out and I was bowled over. This is the Pet Shop Boys?? No way! A sublimely cool slice of pumping retro hi-NRG, it also acts as the perfect statement of intent as the album opener. Electric is a dance album through-and-through, even including Bruce Springsteen cover “The Last to Die.” Single “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct”  sounds like it was always a classic PSB song, while “The Last to Die” verges into VNV Nation territory. I honestly think this is the best album they’ve ever made!

Alison Moyet – The Minutes

alfAnother unexpected treat! Yazoo’s “reconnected” reunion tour a few years ago was an undoubted success, and it got me super-hyped for the possibility of some new material from Alf & Vince. That hasn’t happened (yet), but in a way that doesn’t matter: The Minutes is a magnificant return to elctronica, loaded with fabulous modern synthpop numbers (checkout “Filigree” for example). Collaborating with Guy Sigsworth has led to some of Moyet’s best-ever work: The Minutes fully deserves the acclaim its received in the mainstream press, and it was delightful to see Alison Moyet in the UK Top 10 Album charts again.


Karl Bartos – Off The Record

karlThe next-best thing to a new Kraftwerk album is always a new Karl Bartos album. And in the case of Off the Record, I seriously doubt Herr Hütter and current friends could have done much better. Although I tend to skip the opening track (and imo ill-advised lead single), from “Nachtfahrt” onwards this is just a glorious album. Playing out like an alternative The Mix, Off the Record feels like a Kraftwerk greatest hits package, with Karl expertly touching on the signature sound of Kraftwerk from Radioactivity onwards. It’s difficult to pick out favourites – so I won’t. Just start from Track 2 and enjoy this retro wonder of the future…


Northern Kind  Credible Sexy Unit

nkHere’s a band that’s very dear to my heart. For fans of the Vince Clarke-ian style of synthpop, a new album from Northern Kind will always be an event. From the off, Credible Sexy Unit lays down its template with “Yours“, a fantastic slice of jaunty sing-along synthpop. And taken as a whole, the songs that make up this album form exactly what you’d expect from Northern Kind: retro-amped chipper tunes, superlative singing, enduring song-writing, and a professional attitude that belies their indie sensibilities. Credible Sexy Unit will surely please any discerning synthpop fan, especially those seeking a bit of cheerful enlightenment. You can read my full review over at The Electricity Club!


CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

chvrchesWhat an amazing year it’s been for Chvrches. From the backwater streets of Glasgow to synthpop’s modern global megastars, this is the gateway band to persuade the masses about the joys of synthpop. Because what still astonishes me is that despite their now huge appeal, Chvrches are still 100% a synthpop band with an album-full of songs that I – single white male, wrong side of 40 – think are some of this year’s best musical treats (and I include the “blokey” songs in there too!) . All four superb singles are present and correct, as well as a host of achingly good tracks like “Science/Vision” , “Lungs” and “We Sink“. So aye, Chvrches eh: bloody hell, this is barry stuff but!


Vile Electrodes – The Future Through a Lens

vileMy most-anticipated album this year was always going to be the Vile Electrodes debut. It’s been over a two year wait, but boy was it worth it! On first listening, I found The Future Through a Lens surprisingly introspective and a little bit downbeat. But it’s not really a dance album: these songs demand attention and constantly reward careful listening.  Opening with a brilliant instrumental – a broody, John Carpenter-inspired number – the eleven songs that follow are all dazzlingly good synth songs. Lead vocalist Anais Neon controls the mic audaciously, dreamily crooning and weaving her way over the music. Highlights include “Drowned Cities” (which still reminds me of Front 242 but I think I’m alone there), “Proximity” (still superb despite its age), and the cybergasmically awesome “Damaged Software.” And album-closer “Deep Red” is surely the synthpop ballad of the year, a timeless epic that’s both melancholic and warmly optimistic.


OMD – English Electric

omdAs the decades roll by, most bands are never able to repeat their creative glory years and instead rely on royalties from Greatest Hits repacks to pay the bills. Not so Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. While 2010’s History of Modern was (and still is) a great album, it always felt like a last-gasp sing-a-long reunion with The Best of OMD. But now with English Electric they’ve proved that musical genius sometimes never fades. Since its release in April, I’ve given this album countless playthroughs and it’s still a joy every time. Some thumping synthwork lies within, backed up with Andy McCluskey on peak form. At least half this album instantly screams “OMD classic!” while the rest demonstrates the no-compromise attitude of old. With hints of the  musique concrète that smothered Dazzle Ships, there’s nonetheless no filler on English Electric: even the abstract “Atomic Ranch” serves as a perfect bridge to the final song. Synthpop fans could not have asked for anything more: English Electric is a crowning achievement in the OMD catalog and my absolute favorite album of the year.



And Finally

So where’s Feathers, you’re wondering? Or Marniemr. kittyMapsSoft Metals or VNV Nation? All good electronic releases, but none quite caught my attention like the ones I’ve listed above. The Sound of the Crowd album arrived too late to my ears to give it a proper listen, and the brilliant Kite still steadfastly refuse to release an album. Other opinions are of course available! Check out Softsynth‘s Best Electronic Albums of 2013 and of course The Electricity Club‘s 30 Songs of 2013.

In 2013, synthpop fans have never had it so good: and with Spotify I’ve gorged myself to the max! Happy Christmas everybody, see you next year.


Even More Favorite Albums of 2013

While waiting for albums from CHVRCHES, Covenant, Northern Kind, Vile Electrodes, and VNV Nation (all due this year!) here’s another selection of excellent electronica from the past month or two.



Iamamiwhoami – Bounty

Marnie – Crystal World

Pet Shop Boys – Electric

Slave Republic – Quest for Love

Zynic – Blindsided



Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

Pouppée Fabrikk – The Dirt

SIGNAL AOUT 42 – Inspiration



Phaxe – Calm Under Pressure

Shpongle – Museum of Consciousness

Benji Vaughan – Even Tundra

Ovnimoon – Trancemutation of the Mind

Nevarakka – The War Is on!



Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

Warm Digits – Interchange

Five Years of Top 20 Albums

I’ve been posting “Best Albums of the Year” lists for some years now, originally on MySpace then on this site. Feeling all retrospective, I thought I’d put together a quick “list of lists” to help keep track of them all. Unfortunately some of the older lists have gone AWOL: Wayback Machine has a few snapshots of my old MySpace homepage, but alas the blog posts were not archived. Google’s cache does have a fragment, but only goes back to 2009. Still, there’s still five years of top albums to re-visit!


2005 – 2007

Top 10 lists posted on MySpace but now lost in the mists of time… I do remember my album of the year for 2007 though:


Damn I miss Schmoof!.


Top 10 Albums of 2008” – fragment retrieved from MySpace:

10. Vibrasphere – “Lungs of Life
09.  Deadmau5 – “Random Album Title
08.  Thermostatic – “Humanizer
07.  Ticon – “2AM
06.  The Presets – “Apocalypso
05.  Gentle Touch – “In Memory of Savannah
04.  Zeigeist – “The Jade Motel
03.  Padded Cell – “Night Must Fall
02.  Kelley Polar – “I Need You to Hold on While the Sky Is Falling”
01.  Parralox – “Electricity







.The Human League - Credo




  • Top 20 Synthpop Albums of 2013 – coming in December!

Pansentient Synthpop 2013

psl-sp2013-200Pansentient Synthpop 2013 is our latest annual Spotify playlist containing an ever-expanding collection of the best new synthpop and electropop releases of the year. Featuring over 100 songs from over 100 artists, this playlist is the ultimate modern sampler for every discerning synthpop fan!

Updated weekly with additional suggestions from The Electricity Club, Brutal Resonance, Electronic Magazine and Bop 2 Pop.




Alison Moyet, Analog Angel, Arachnophobias, Austra, B.E.F., Bloodgroup, Carved Souls, Chateau Marmont, CHVRCHES, Cinemascape, Click Click Drone, Clubfeet, College, Covenant, dAVOS, Daybehavior, Depeche Mode, Digits, Electro Spectre, Eleven:Elevene, Emika, Etage Neun, French Horn Rebellion, Future Perfect, Gazelle Twin, Ghost Capsules, Hjärta, HNN, Hot Chip, Hurts, Hyperbubble, Jenn Vix and Dirk Ivens, Juveniles, Karl Bartos, Kavinsky, Kid Moxie, Kite, Kontravoid, Lindstrøm, Little Boots, Lust For Youth, Marnie, Marsheaux, Melotron, Mesh, Miss Kittin, mr. kitty, Neutral Lies, Noblesse Oblige, Oppenheimer Mk II, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Parralox, Pet Shop Boys, Planet R, Polly Scattergood, Pyrroline, Quelles Paroles, Raggedy Angry, Rubber Dots, Sad January, Sally Shapiro, Selected Area, Sensual Harassment, Sin Cos Tan, Skinny Puppy, Slave Republic, Social Ambitions, Soft Metals, Soldout, Sound of Science, Space March, Spacebuoy, Spleen United, Sykur, Syrian, Tenek, The Emperor Machine, Titans, Topgun, Torul, Vanbot, Vanguard, Vaylon, Vile Electrodes, Visage, Vision Talk, Vive La Fête, Vivien Glass, Vulgar Fashion, Zynic… and more to come!

More Favorite Albums of 2013

Here’s another selection of great new albums on my Spotify rotation. These dozen or so slabs of prime electronica made the cut and should keep you going for a few weeks!



BEF – Music of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark

Feathers – If All Here Now

Ghost Capsules – Ghost Capsules

Noblesse Oblige – Affair of the Heart

Social Ambitions – Hunger

Vaylon – Primus



Austra – Olympia

Emika – Dva

HNN – Pièce Radiophonique (Extended Version)

Torul – Tonight We Dream Fiercely



Comaduster – Winter Eyes

Container 90 – Working Class League

Frontline Assembly – Echogenetic

Funker Vogt – Companion in Crime

Skinny Puppy – Weapon

Some Favorite Albums of 2013 (so far)

Here’s a selection of new albums I’ve been enjoying this year, mostly synthpop but a few others in the mix too.

Karl Bartos – Atomium

Depeche Mode – Welcome To My World

Marsheaux – Inhale

Kavinsky – OutRun

OMD – English Electric

Space March – Mountain King

Little Boots – Nocturnes

Alison Moyet – The Minutes

K-X-P – II