Compiled by Lori Kennedy
Thinking about starting a synth pop band? We’d like to provide you with some required reading (and listening). Here’s ten synthpop tunes you need to listen to and why (in no particular order).
(Note: Narrowing this list down to ten tracks is akin to eating one potato chip: You’ve got to force yourself to do it only to say that yes, you did it.)
1. “Someone Great,” LCD Soundsystem (Sound of Silver, DFA Records, 2007)
With a background synth line very reminiscent of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” “Someone Great” features the dichotomy of happy xylophone stabs and really sad lyrics. A masterpiece in tugging at the heartstrings amid tinkly percussive sounds.
2. “Vienna,” Ultravox (Vienna, Chrysalis, 1981)
This track draws you in easily with its beautiful piano and synth melodies. Singer Midge Ure’s tension-filled voice adds to the song’s dramatic tone. Also? It has a serious piano and synth solo halfway through the track.
3. “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” Depeche Mode (Speak & Spell, Mute, 1981)
Even if you didn’t know who recorded this song, you know this song. The unforgettable, happy synth and Dave Gahan’s oddly upbeat “I just can’t seem to get enough of you” vocal delivery forces you to begin be-bopping in your chair. Very addictive.
4. “Situation,” Yaz (Upstairs at Eric’s, Mute, 1982)
I know, everyone thinks this song is called “Move Out.” I did, too. Either way, this song is funky synth goodness at its finest. This is one of those tracks where you can’t help but head to the dancefloor to bust some rusty moves.
5. “Tainted Love,” Soft Cell (Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, Some Bizarre, 1981)
Twisted and dark, how many times have you caught yourself singing along with Marc Almond about a toxic relationship? You feel Almond’s pain as you fist-pump along with the song’s unmistakable synth stabs.
6. “Europa and the Pirate Twins,” Thomas Dolby (The Golden Age of Wireless, Venice in Peril, 1981)
Yes, “She Blinded Me With Science” is great synthpop fun, but frankly, we’re more into this lesser-known, calmer Thomas Dolby gem. It’s got a catchy chorus and a pretty, upbeat, echo-y synth line. Awesome bonus? The video features Thomas Dolby in full mad-scientist mode.
7. “I Love You,” Yello (You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess, Vertigo, 1983)
The wobbly synth stabs of this track tend to stick in your head. Coupled with the breathy female vocal saying “I Love You,” this song easily made me a fan of Yello’s quirky style.
8. “Through Being Cool,” Devo (New Traditionalists, Warner Bros., 1981)
Contrary to the song’s title, it turns out Devo was just getting started being cool. This is simply a fun celebration of ultimate nerdom. And the video for this song is equally as fun and bizarre as the song is. Plastic hair abounds.
9. “If You Leave,” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (Single, Virgin, 1986)
Melodic and pretty, one can’t help but listen to this song and daydream about teen angst and the John Hughes’ flick in which this song is featured, Pretty in Pink. So dreamy and poppy.
10. “West End Girls,” Pet Shop Boys (Please, EMI, 1984)
“West End Girls” is an excellent study in synthpop with a hip-hop lean. A propulsive bass line moves the song along, accompanied by a dark synth and melancholy lyrics. But you’ve never had more fun dancing to depression.