10 Underrated Modern Synth Pop Songs

The genre of music known as ‘SynthPop‘ has its origins in the mid-60s. But it truly began to gain mainstream attention and became a pop music staple by the time the 80s rolled in with the frequent domination of the synthesizer.

Like all trends, synth pop is slowly beginning to make a comeback in the modern music scene with many recent acts such as The Weeknd, Ariana Grande etc. churning out popular hits in this genre. However, among the glitz of these commercial successes, there are many which have not received their due credit. Below are 10 such songs that deserve more appreciation.

Disclaimer: This is NOT an exhaustive list and the views expressed are based on personal opinion. This post is NOT intended to state any form of plagiarism by the associated acts and similarities have been cited purely to assist the reader to relate with the mood of the song. Happy Reading!

10. ‘The Less I Know The Better’ – Tame Impala (2015)

Tame Impala  may sound like a cool name for a DJ but they are, in fact, a 5 member Australian  psychedelic rock band active since 2007 and have been slowly making a name for themselves over the years.

Like most of their records, this one too makes active usage of distortion and fuzz and is an ode to a girl who is way out of the protagonist’s league. The video though NSFW matches the oddball vibe of the song perfectly.

Reminds me of : Echoing riffs and soft rock love ballads like ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You‘ by Foreigner.

9. ‘Ocean Drive’ – Duke Dumont (2015)

True to its title, this song is perfect for a drive along a scenic coastline in a vintage car with the top down! Okay, if you are not into squad shenanigans like that, the song’s chilly vibe and contemplative lyrics still make it great for solo listening..as you slowly sway to the beat.

For Duke Dumont, one of the best-known House music producers with chart-topping hits in the UK like’ Need U (100%)‘ and ‘Won’t Look Back‘, ‘Ocean Drive’ marks a dramatic change of style with its predominant usage of drum beats and bass guitar. Perhaps the heavy Euro dance music feel led to its lackluster performance on the American charts.

Reminds me of : Songs with an uninterrupted synth bassline like ‘Don’t You Want Me‘ by The Human League.

8. ‘Kiss Me’ – Olly Murs (2014)

At this point Olly Murs looks like one of those pop stars eternally stuck at the brink of mainstream recognition; much like how he finished as the runner-up in the sixth installment of the hugely popular UK edition of the  X-Factor.

The vocal style here may seem more suitable to the likes of The Weeknd but Olly makes it his own and his anguish as a confused lover clearly resonates. Make no mistake, the man is talented and has demonstrated his mastery over a variety of genres across his four studio albums. Here’s hoping  he gets his due with the newly released fifth album ‘24 Hrs‘ which has yet another synth inspired track – ‘You Don’t Know Love‘. Check it out!

Reminds me of : The mid-tempo beat and post-disco influence in songs like ‘Automatic‘ by Pointer Sisters.

7. ‘Body Talk’ – Foxes (2016)

Ever since making a splash into the big league with her powerful vocals on the smash hit ‘Clarity‘ by DJ Zedd, this singer-songwriter who goes by the stage name ‘Foxes‘ has maintained a relatively low profile.

Honestly, this whole list could be filled with the entire discography of Foxes which has a nostalgic retro feel to it. This track from her second studio album – ‘ All I Need‘ is no exception. A girl anthem that urges one to let go of the past and embrace the future, the lyrics and hypnotic beats are an instant uplifter.

Reminds me of : Iconic 80s anthems such as ‘Like a Prayer‘ by Madonna  but with more energetic guitar riffs.

6. ‘Lush Life’ – Zara Larsson (2016)

This might be the only song here which seems to stretch the boundaries of the synth pop genre as it incorporates tropical undertones and a vocal delivery that is similar to that of Rihanna. However, the up and coming Swedish songstress – Zara Larsson brings her own spin to the track with an unmissable pulsing bassline and catchy lyrics that are sure to get any party started.

Another reality TV prodigy, Zara has been steadily making a name for herself in her native Sweden.  Chart-topping collaborations such as David Guetta’s ‘This One’s for You‘ and Tinie Tempah’s ‘Girls Like‘,  have already made her a recognizable star in the UK. With her third album due in January 2017 and a solo already climbing charts worldwide, she seems poised to be the next breakout star.

Reminds me of : Debby Harry’s bold vocal style in the Blondie track – ‘Rapture‘.

5. ‘Wild’ – Troye Sivan (2015)

Melancholic songs about lost love were a sure staple of 80s soft rock and this track perfectly captures the highs and lows of it. With a haunting melody together with Troye Sivan‘s soothing voice, this track stays with you long after its over. There is also an alternate version – a duet with Alessia Cara which has a more modern ballad like feel to it.

Possibly the only other Youtube personality after Justin Beiber to have successfully transitioned to a music career, the similarity between ‘the Beibs’ and Troye ends there. Apart from music, Troye is also an occasional actor having been in movies like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the Spud film trilogy. However, his debut single ‘Happy Little Pill‘ showed his ability to perfectly capture the voice of the Millenial generation. No wonder it was soon followed by his solo album titled ‘Blue Neighbourhood‘ which has more great songs including the one above.

Reminds me of : The tenderness of ‘In Your Eyes‘ by Peter Gabriel combined with the urgency of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule The World‘ by Tears For Fears. Not a bad combination at all!

4. ‘Shine’ – Years and Years (2015)

If you are into modern ElectroPop, chances are you would come across Years and Years. They first came into prominence with their single ‘King‘ which enjoyed considerable airplay in early 2015. However, they have failed to generate similar interest with subsequent releases perhaps struggling to compete with ‘fresher’ acts in the genre like DNCE, The Veronicas etc.

This single which was a follow-up to ‘King’, has a similar synth undertone albeit a bit more subdued. The accompanying video too is a clever nod to the 80s with its sci-fi inspired storyline.

Reminds me of : ‘Running Up That Hill‘ by Kate Bush especially the intro music.

3. ‘A Great Design’ – Black Marble  (2012)

Listening for the first time, one might actually think this track is from the 80s. Coming from a band so obscure that they don’t even have a wiki page, Black Marble have been pretty active since 2012. Despite having featured in soundtracks of recent movies such as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and Men, Women & Children, this NY-based duo seem to be content with their underground indie status. So long as they churn out great tunes like these, I am not complaining!

The synth wave is quite predominant in all of their songs with existentialism being the general theme. This song too brings back memories of the short-lived musical era of Joy Division with its gradual music build up and recurring synth bass.

Reminds me of : The haunting vocals of Joy Division‘s Ian Curtis meets the trademark echoey new age beat of Tangerine Dream.

2. ‘Electric Feel’ – MGMT (2007)

Perhaps the most well-known track on this list, it’s inclusion is purely to draw back attention to how awesome this song was when it first dropped! Released in 2007, ‘Electric Feel’ was way ahead of its time. With it’s success, MGMT made indie rock cool again and led to the formation of similar copycat semi rock/pop bands.

An ode to the psychedelic era of the late 70s and early 80s, MGMT brilliantly combine catchy lyrics, synthpop vibes and electric guitar while still remaining true to modern musical aesthetics. The video too in which it seems like the Hobbits from the LOTR movies are having a crazy afterparty in the forest, fits this track to a T.

Reminds me of : the vocal style of the Bee Gees meeting Jimi Hendrix‘s electric guitar.

1. ‘Coming Of Age’ – Foster The People (2014)

Mark Foster spent many years writing jingles for TV adverts until a chance encounter with aspiring musician Mark Pontius led to the formation of Foster The People. Their debut track – ‘Pumped Up Kicks‘ instantly put them on the map and made them a household name.

Sadly though, they have not been able to shake off the one-hit wonder tag after the success of their debut album ‘Torches‘. Their followup ‘Supermodel‘ not only had insurmountable expectations to fulfill, but it also seemed riddled with overproduction which put off some fans who were expecting an indie vibe closer to the band’s origins.

However, the one stand-out track which I feel deserved more airplay was ‘Coming of Age’. With its chiming guitars and ambiguous lyrics, this track is brimming with teenage angst. Its video which depicts the struggles of various Californian kids perfectly captures the mood of teenage-centric movies of the 80s.

Reminds me of : the musical style of the Beach Boys in songs like ‘California Girls

So what are your thoughts about my list? What other songs remind you of the Synth Pop genre? Post a comment. Let’s start a discussion!

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Author: The Entertainment Lister

Hello there! I am a Software Developer by profession but a Pop Culture enthusiast at heart. When not contemplating my next career move, I find solace in watching, discussing or thinking about movies, music and TV shows. If you share the same enthusiasm, follow my musings for your viewing/listening pleasure. Happy Reading!

2 thoughts on “10 Underrated Modern Synth Pop Songs”

  1. Tame Impala! My friend is a huge fan of the band but this is the first time I’ve seen someone besides him talk about them. They’re a good music group for sure 🙂 I’ve yet to check out Foster the People’s new album. I definitely agree that they’ve been unfairly considered somewhat of a one-hit-wonder. Their first album was great. I love ‘I Would Do Anything For You’ and ‘Helena Beat’ in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

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