Modern Synthpop’s top 10 new releases of 2017

Welcome to my annual list of the best Modern Synthpop Releases of 2017. Like last year’s list, this one combines some outstanding music by “classic” artists like OMD, Gary Numan and T.O.Y. with many new or fairly young modern acts. That’s what makes synthpop so incredibly vibrant and endlessly fascinating to follow. Here, without further ado, are my picks for the Top 10 Modern Synthpop releases of 2017!

Gary Numan – Savage (Songs From a Broken World)

This astounding album is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where small bands of people struggle for survival. Numan’s singing style is raw, emotional and incredibly moving, delivered in short bursts between the edgy synths and a variety of industrial sound effects. I got a sense of the singer as a protagonist who must fight to survive. He is weary as he makes his way through what’s left of the world, but hr still clings to shreds of hope. The arrangement of each song is sparse and striking, with Middle Eastern accents that give Savage a distinct sense of place. As you listen to these beautifully-crafted tracks, you can almost picture a lone, tattered figure stumbling across the desert sands. My favorite track is And It All Began with You, which describes an undying love that extends beyond this world into the next (“And when you stand before God/I’ll be with you.”). Savage is a spectacular artistic achievement for Numan, and a clear choice for the number one new Modern Synthpop Release of 2017!

OMD – The Punishment of Luxury

OMD’s 13th release follows in the mold of 2013’s amazing English Electric, blending some satisfying, well-crafted ballads with a handful of quirky tracks (like Robot Man) that leave you scratching your head at first, but which eventually start to grow on you. In other words, typical OMD! The subject matter is a different story, however. The Punishment of Luxury is a commentary on our contemporary world, which seems to be coming apart at the seams. Even the album’s title track is a sharp poke in the eye at the conspicuous consumption of the rich: “Lazy girl, dirty boy/Surrounded by your broken toys/And you don’t know how/To just make the pain go away.” Stand-out tracks include Isotype, Precision & Decay and La Mitrailleuse.

The Birthday Massacre – Under Your Spell

Some synth purists may scoff at the inclusion of TBM in a top 10 synthpop release list, but the fact is their music has always had a fairly strong synth/rock throughline that is even stronger on Under Your Spell. The songwriting on this enjoyable album is as strong as ever, among their best work – even though they seem to be stepping away from the spooky, rainy atmospherics that have characterized most of their recent albums. Chibi’s strong yet enigmatic vocals are in peak form, backed by crunchy guitar riffs and soaring synths. Favorite tracks include One, Under Your Spell, Counterpane and Hex. If you haven’t checked out The Birthday Massacre, I encourage you to ignore their melodramatic name and give this album a good listen. I think you’ll be quite impressed!

Daily Planet – Play Rewind Repeat

Daily Planet is an amazing story. Over 20 years ago, Johan Baeckström and Jarmo Ollila put out several beautifully crafted albums that were standouts in the independent modern synthpop scene. Baeckström’s gentle, nimble vocals are like nothing else – gorgeously nuanced, a real pleasure to listen to. Then they went into a two-decade hiatus, leaving their fans waiting for more but walking away unrequited. To everyone’s surprise, the much older and wiser Swedish duo got back together and produced the remarkable album, Two, in 2014. It was as if time stopped, and they never left us. Play Rewind Repeat is a worthy follow-up, and builds upon their signature sound while not formulaically repeating it. Grains of Sand is one of many upbeat, scintillating tracks that will delight your senses. Over Water takes a stunning minor-key turn that is also quite memorable. I look forward to much more amazing synthpop from this dynamic duo!

Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

Goldfrapp is a group that I hadn’t paid much attention to until 2017. Perhaps that’s because Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have taken an enigmatic, David Bowie-like approach to their musical career, veering from dance pop to folktronica, Italo-disco and glam pop. Silver Eye is very much in the synthpop/dance pop camp, with buzzy electronics, quirky beats and Allison’s sensual vocals blending together into a delightful aural stew. Favorites on this album, Goldfrapp’s first new release in four years, include Anymore, Systemagic, Faux Suede Drifter (a surprisingly sparse arrangement compared to Goldfrapp’s usual layered compositions) and Oceans.

Frecvens – A New Day

Frecvens is an intriguing new band that hails from Oslo, Norway. Their debut album, A New Day, is one of the stand-out surprises of 2017. Jonas Andresen and Fredrik Bjerkland have crafted a shimmering melodic and vocal style that is truly unique – and quite enjoyable. Stand-out tracks include: Merci, Sweetest Revenge, Everything Happen and Missing You. The latter has a strong Violator-era DM vibe to it – very cool! If that wasn’t enough, later in 2017, Frecvens released a 8-track EP entitled Someone To Talk To. It follows a similar musical style – still very much recognizable as uniquely Frecvens – but the compositions on this 8-track release are a bit more experimental. Clearly, this duo doesn’t want to get into a rut musically.

X Marks the Pedwalk – Secrets

Sevren Ni-Arb, the alias of André Schmechta, formed X Marks the Pedwalk in 1989, with a focus on EBM and industrial sounds. After a number of years of success, he went on a 14-year hiatus, and only recently re-activated it. New elements on Secrets, his ninth release, include a stronger focus on synthpop and a bigger singing role for his wife, Estafania. He has also released it on his own label, Meshworks. Secrets is a terrific albeit short album (only 9 songs) that bristles with energy, complex arrangements and lots of cool hooks – perfect for the dance floor. Sevren Ni-Arb is clearly a seasoned and enthusiastic songwriter, considering the high quality of tracks like Masterpiece, Ghost and Breathe. Secrets is definitely worth a listen!

Priest – New Flesh

Imagine if Black Celebration-era DM and And One had a love child, with a bit of Erasure thrown in for good measure. That unique stew will help you too start to understand Priest’s eclectic but enjoyable style on its debut long-player, New Flesh. Every song on this album is solid – well composed, with quirky touches and a surprising amount of variety in only 10 songs. There’s no filler here! Favorite tracks include: History in Black, Populist, Nightmare Hotel and Reloader.

M.I.N.E – One

I’ve always been a huge fan of Camouflage, especially their last album, Grayscale. What an absolutely brilliant set of songs! Unfortunately, Camouflage produces new albums very infrequently, so it takes a long time to get your fix between releases. Fortunately, one of the members of Camouflage felt the same way, and decided to do something about it. Marcus Mayne formed a group called M.I.N.E to continue producing music in a similar style. He released his first album under this moniker earlier this year, a four track EP called One. For fans of Camouflage, it’s the perfect tonic: a familiar voice, with four tantalizing songs that hint at more to come. Things We’ve Done is a mid-tempo number in the Camouflage model. White Trash is a quirky ballad with unique sound samples scattered about. Here’s a surprise: When I looked for this EP online, it disappeared from Spotify and iTunes. So I looked at visitor posts to the M.I.N.E Facebook page, figuring other people must be wondering what happened to their music. The answer is simple: The band is in the midst of a label change, PLUS they’ll be releasing a new full-length album in January!

T.O.Y. – Pain is Love

It seems hard to believe, but this is the first new music from T.O.Y. In 14 years. The German synthpop group last released an album, White Lights , in 2003 while signed to the A Different Drum. In addition, the release of Pain is Love was delayed several times due to personnel changes. This new album was well worth the wait. This 14-track LP shows an accomplished synthpop artist at his best. T.O.Y.’s mastery of melodic synthpop shines from every pore of Pain is Love. The variety of songs is impressive; despite its lengthy gestation period, the songs feel just right – not overly fussed over. Each song contains its own unique hooks and fun little synth elements. Hopefully, this is a return to form for this well-loved group, which is currently touring Europe and Russia.

Honorable mentions

There has been so much excellent synthpop music published in 2017 that I decided to name another 7 releases to an Honorable Mentions list. I encourage you to check out this cornucopia of wonderful electronic tunes!

  • Charlotte Someone – Magnetar
  • Tiny Magnetic Pets – Deluxe/Debris
  • Me the Tiger – What is Beautiful Never Dies
  • Elements – Neuropa
  • Null+Void – Cryosleep
  • The Frixion – The Frixion
  • Battery Operated Orchestra – Radiation

Now it’s your turn

What modern synthpop releases (albums OR EPs; no singles, please) amazed and delighted you during 2017? Please share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

16 comments

  1. Charles W. Jones - December 23, 2017 5:49 pm

    In addition to your list, I’d add;
    Drab Majesty – The Demonstration is very ethereal and strange.
    Animotion – Raise Your Expectations is one of the those albums I kept thinking, damn, they are back like they never left.
    Pixx – The Age of Anxiety is an unexpected gem.
    Zynic – Neon Oblivion, I enjoyed because it reminded me of the 80s.

  2. Robert Widell - December 23, 2017 7:17 pm

    Swedish synth duo Dpoint’s mini album from 2017

  3. fred - December 23, 2017 7:30 pm

    For me TOY was one of the best album in the year.

    Alphaville: strange attractor
    boytonic : Jewel
    the sound of arrows : stay free
    higher sense : halfway between
    Equatronic : Pulsatile
    hurts : desire
    Felix marc : alternative facts
    nordira : ecstasy
    namnambulu : borders
    Zynic : Neon oblivion
    Etage Neun : This too shall pass
    Ultranoir: Intonaut

    and from very end of 2016 : Logic and Olivia : PINK
    one incredible band.

  4. fred - December 23, 2017 7:31 pm

    it is nordika, not nordira !

  5. Malin Marcko - December 23, 2017 7:38 pm

    UDB (Unlimited Dance Broadcast) has, since leaving Dem Vackra in 1984 (one of USAs few early synt bands) recorded both DM and own material.

    Synt is of essence and preferably with a dance beat!

    Rare but worthwhile – check out Spotify https://open.spotify.com/artist/5bMsd9EwphDJLZq135sOyG?si=VZpjxiNATMuECj6wASX0vg

    Malin

  6. fred - December 23, 2017 7:40 pm

    and it is boytronic ! crazy keyboard !

  7. Jack Everitt - December 23, 2017 8:13 pm

    Astromythlogy by The Cruxshadows. It’s not a great album like As the Dark Against My Halo, but it’s very good.

    Unlike 2016, 2017 seemed a pretty poor year for synthpop, dark wave, dance new wave, futurepop, etc., including very disappointing albums from “Depeche Mode” and “Alphaville”. I have to use quotes as it’s hard for me to believe these weren’t released under their singer’s names instead.

    M.I.N.E – One: my favorite of the year.

    And heaviest in my rotation is New Order’s Music Complete/Complete Music. They did release a digital only new set of remixes in 2017: Music Complete: Remix EP, of which the Academic (Mark Reeder Akademix) track is particularly strong.

    And best new track/single in support of a compilation goes to Marc Almond: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjX55FFPDOk

  8. ROb - December 24, 2017 2:15 pm

    SLAVE to the SQUAREwave – JIGSAW. Check out ‘Starrs’ and ‘Get Out of my House’.

  9. Lloyd - December 25, 2017 9:28 am

    Thanks for including The Frixion in your “Honourable Mentions “!

    It’s very much appreciated.

    Merry Christmas 😊

  10. Fabian - December 26, 2017 4:52 pm

    Noyce TM – Love Ends was in my point of view the best Album 2017! The Songs, the lyrics and the perfect Sound! simply perfect and a great album after the frustrating DM Album.

  11. Fabian - December 26, 2017 4:54 pm

    https://youtu.be/Z19s001qpoY

  12. Trevor - December 27, 2017 4:45 pm

    Also…..
    Rusty egan – welcome to the dancefloor
    Sailor and I – the invention of loneliness
    Telekon – hope for believers
    Alison Moyet – other
    EMT – resolute
    Circuit 3 – all i ever knew (classy upstairs at Erics cover album).

  13. Brent Morrison - December 28, 2017 10:20 pm

    Also consider:

    The New Division: Precision
    All Hail the Silence: AHTS-1
    Sohn: Rennen
    ARGH: Get it Right
    Empathy Test: Safe From Harm
    Scandroid: Monochrome

  14. Blair Scott - January 1, 2018 12:59 am

    Here’s my Synthentral Top 30 with 10 Honorable Mentions of synth-based music (synthpop, futurepop, EBM, synthwave, darkwave, etc) in alphabetical order.

    3Force — Resistance
    3teeth – _shutdown.exe_
    Am Tierpark — Trashy Luxury
    Angelspit — Black Dog Bite
    ARIAN 1 — Signals
    Blakk Glass — Trial EP
    Christopher ANTON — Connected
    CRYSEHD — EP III
    deZeption — Mature
    Drab Majesty – The Demonstration
    Elektrostaub — Birthday And Death
    Funker Vogt — Code Of Conduct
    Gary Numan Official — Savage: Songs From A Broken World
    GRENDEL — Age Of The Disposable Body
    Hexheart — Midnight On A Moonless Night
    Lorelei Dreaming — Banshee
    ManMindMachine — Point Of Departure EP
    Missing in STARS — Echo Point
    Night Drive — Night Drive
    Priest — New Flesh
    Reflection — Lumen EP
    Schwarzschild — Radius
    Stilz — Starcrash
    T.O.Y. — Pain Is Love
    Telekon — Hope for Believers
    TORUL — Monday EP
    Erie Loch – Wiccid — By Design
    William Control — Revelations: The White EP
    Xenturion Prime — Humanity Plus
    ZyniC — Neon Oblivion

    2017 SYNTH-BASED HONORABLE MENTIONS (alphabetical order):

    C-lekktor– Out Of My Way
    Cruxshadows — Astromythology
    Dav Dralleon — Depths EP
    Forces of Light — Darklights
    The New Division — No Pride In Paradise EP
    Orange Sector (offiziell) — Endzeit (Deluxe Edition)
    Slave Republic — Songs For Sinners
    Sonic Reunion — Turning Point
    VAINERZ — Patient
    Watch Clark — First Week of Winter

  15. Andy - January 8, 2018 10:52 am

    OMD “the punishment of luxury”
    Metroland “12×12”

  16. Gizz - January 11, 2018 8:36 pm

    Well i for one loved depeche mode’s spirit and also mind.in.a.box. broken legacies, t.o.y. pain is love and priest new flesh

Have your say

A theme by CSSIgniter.com