Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nu-Disco & 80's Revival SynthPop Music

Much of the modern 80's synthpop I've found online (via YouTube, SoundCloud, and Tracasseur's Music Blog) borders on pastiche, but in a nice way. Artists often takes vintage soundtrack musical cues/chord structures and creates something completely new, but ultimately familiar. It's where the concept of Saudade comes in - it reminds us of a time that we want to go back to - but in truth, perhaps never existed how we remember it. I'm sure there were bars that looked/sounded like Tech Noir in the 1980s, but for a generation like myself that grew up in the early '90s (being born in '84), all I ever had were video and images to show me what the recent past was; it's shape, color, and character.

I'm happy to find many of these artists strike a similar chord. If you've found this post, and haven't yet heard of these songs, I hope they do for you as well.

The problem with genre names, is that they're often too general. I've noticed the term 'chillwave', labeled on many chill-sounding modern newwave-sounding bands, or songs. While some remixes, or particular tracks certainly have that feel - others simply feel like 80's pop music from an alternate universe.

For the sake of my own iPod playlists, I group things based on a few factors - your mileage may vary.
  • If there's clear, undistored vocals, and the songs follow a pop-structure with clear chording? Synthpop. Much of the new 80's sound has a French-electro/Nu-disco vibe to it, particularly remixes by Fear of Tigers.
  • However, other chill-sounding tracks that have increased distortion, or a haziness to their sound or vocals I like to group as "Glo-fi". 
  • Likewise, a heavy emphasis on synthesizers and sequencing (with minimal-to-no vocals) feels better suited as synthwave (without vocals), or synthpop (with vocals). Again, things are hard to nail down, but just about any of the above mix well with the rest. 
First up is Anoraak, (An-o-rak), a band based in France, which I can only assume drew it's name from this (English) slang term. A few of their tracks are downloadable here.

Their original songs are good, and have particularly clear, pleasant vocals. Anoraak's most popular track, Night Drive is great, and I enjoyed Cloud Rain Love as well. Where their songs really shine though, is when remixed in a dancy, Nu-disco style.

Anoraak - Night Drive (Fear of Tigers Remix)

Anoraak - Night Drive (Grum Remix)

Anoraak also has some very good remixes of their own. It's worthwhile browsing around YouTube or Tracasseur's Music Blog to track down other stuff they've been involved with.

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms (Anoraak Remix)

Also in the pop-ish / catchy hook territory, are bands like Electric Youth. Their recognition recently comes from providing the vocals to a collaborative track with College for the excellent Ryan Gosling film, 'Drive'.

I was lucky enough to see both the band perform live in Toronto, including a rendition of the song "A Real Hero". While the venue's sound was less that amazing, both artists skill shone through.

College & Electric Youth - A Real Hero (Drive Original Movie Soundtrack)

Electric Youth - Right Back To You

Neon Indian is another interesting band. From what I've seen, the artist seems a bit irritated that people dare label his music anything, including 'chillwave'. His blend of synth, fuzzy vocals, and pop hooks is hard to pigon-hole, but his music still sounds great when paired with other modern synthwave / synthpop artists.

Neon Indian - Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)

Neon Indian - Polish Girl


  1. Wow, thanks for helping me discover Anoraak!

  2. You're welcome Eric. Browse around SoundCloud or YouTube to find some great remixes they've done.