In this list, I would like to present the best 20 Synth Pop album milestones of the last 30 years. These are the albums I’ve listened to at least a thousand times and still think are brilliant. So basically a kind of all-time favourite list of albums that despite their age still play an important role for me.
Who’s the list for?
On the one hand, I have noticed in the Analytics statistics that the visitors of Electrozombies have become significantly younger in the last 2 years, which is a very pleasing development. I would like to offer these young visitors here a small reference overview of perhaps missed highlights of the scene. In the best case, one or the other finds here jewels from past times.
Secondly, the list is also for the senior visitors, an expedition back to their own youth. Some time ago, by chance, I heard again a Synth Pop album from the 90s in the car, which overwhelmed me emotionally. And I thought: “Wow, I haven’t heard that album for over 20 years, but I can sing along every line in the lyrics!”. And that’s exactly the feeling I want to give you. Just listen to these old classics again and experience this fantastic, nostalgic feeling.
20 Synth Pop milestones in a chronological order
Duran Duran – Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)
Release Date: February 11th, 1993 Great Tracks: Come Undone, Ordinary World, Too Much Information Further recommend albums: Big Thing (1988), Thank You (1995), Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
At the beginning of the 90s, the music of the ‘Wild Boys’ changed into romantic Synth Pop tunes. But Duran Duran has lost nothing of his own style. I liked this album from the beginning. From today’s point of view, it contains fantastic classics of the band. The subtext still transports enough melancholy and social criticism. With the self-titled album, Duran Duran successfully made the step into the 90s
And One – Spot
Release Date: May 3rd, 1993 Great Tracks: Wild Pain, Life Isn’t Easy In Germany, Consequence Of Time, Tanz Der Arroganz Further recommend albums: I.S.T. (1994), Magnet (2014)
The early years of And One were glorious. That was the peak of my disco time. And I loved to dance to the tracks of And One. Which I still like to do today. The sound of And One is undoubtedly unique and that made the band so big. Maybe my memory plays a trick on me, but in my favourite disco, the club classic ‘Für’ was played almost every weekend. And that filled the dance floor in no time.
Erasure – I Say I Say I Say
Release Date: May 16th, 1994 Great Tracks: Take Me Back, I Love Saturday, Run To The Sun, Always, All Through The Years Further recommend albums: The Innocents (1988), Tomorrow’s World (2011), The Violet Flame (2014)
The album ‘I Say I Say I Say’ sounds like a musical fairy tale. Everybody should know the song ‘Always’, which is even played every now and then on mainstream radio. In principle, every song on this album is a highlight and offers no room for gaps. When the album was released, I bought the CD directly and listened to it up and down. Only years later I learned through the then still young Internet that there is a limited edition with a pop-up picture book mechanics. Thanks to Ebay I was able to buy such a limited edition and it is still representative in our living room.
Mesh – In This Place Forever
Release Date: August, 1996 Great Tracks: Involved, You Didn’t Want Me, I Don’t Think They Know. Something Wrong, Shatters Further recommend albums: The Point At Which It Falls Apart (1999), Automation>>Baby (2013), Looking Skyward (2016)
The album ‘In This Place Forever’ by ‘Mesh’ was a random purchase at that time. While browsing the CD store I saw the cover and it reminded me of the music videos of Depeche Mode back then. So I listened to it in the store, judged it good and bought it. I wasn’t aware at that point that it made me addicted and a Mesh fan. This album is a masterpiece and even after so many years still sounds modern and fresh.
Depeche Mode – Ultra
Release Date: April, 1997 Great Tracks: Barrel Of A Gun, The Love Thieves, Home, Useless, Sister Of Night, Insight Further recommend albums: Some Great Reward (1984), Songs Of Faith And Devotion (1993), Playing The Angel (2005), Sounds Of The Universe (2009)
Well, what can I say? The gloomiest Depeche Mode album is also my favourite album. I can still remember very well. On a Sunday afternoon the premiere of the new Depeche Mode song ‘Barrel Of A Gun‘ was advertised on the radio. I listened to the show and recorded it with a tape recorder. The song premiere came, as expected, at the end of the show. But already the first bleak, sinister electro sounds fascinated me. The song was as uncompromising and unique as only Depeche Mode could have produced it.
For me it was a similar experience as when I first listened to People Are People as a child. It blew me away! On this Sunday I listened to the song in a continuous loop until deep into the night. The album ‘Ultra’ unfortunately took some time, but the day of the purchase is one of the best days of my life.
Beborn Beton – Truth
Release Date: August 8th, 1997 Great Tracks: Spawn, Anther World, Deeper Than The Usual Feeling, Bittersweet Further recommend albums: Tybalt (1993), Nightfall (1996), A Worthy Compensation (2015)
I love Beborn Beton and I love this album! Beborn Beton have always been years ahead of most Synth bands with their unique sound. Even today the more than 20 years old songs still sound up to date. Lyrical as well as sound technically. Intelligent lyrics paired with danceability and a portion of melancholic depth, that’s exactly my thing. The phonetic sound snippets that are integrated in the songs are absolutely ingenious and never achieved to such perfection by anyone. For example, “Kannst du ernsthaft an die Güte eines Gottes glauben der diese Welt erschaffen hat?” (Can you seriously believe in the goodness of a God who created this world?) taken from the song ‘Spawn’. Listening to it is a real goose skin experience.
De/Vision – Monosex
Release Date: April 14th, 1998 Great Tracks: God Is Blind, We Fly … Tonight, Strange Affection, Deliver Me, Back In My Life, Heart Of Stone, New Drug Further recommend albums: Unversed In Love (1995), Fairyland? (1996), Popgefahr (2009), 13 (2016)
My pretty extensive De/Vision collection started with the single ‘Blue Moon’ from the album ‘Unversed In Love’. I got the single as well as the album in a limited edition. I was immediately enthusiastic about De/Visions music. Just one year later the album ‘Fairyland?’ with the single release ‘I Regret’ came out. Until today one of my all-time-favourite songs and I became a loyal fan of the band. But the album ‘Monosex’ is the one I’ve heard the most so far. The album is consistently excellent and has almost no flaws. I would like to emphasize that De/Vision are one of the most productive bands I know and that with a highly creative quality. Thank you for so much awesome music!
Wolfsheim – Spectators
Release Date: February 1st, 1999 Great Tracks: Künstliche Welten, Once In A Lifetime, Heroin, She Said Further recommend albums: No Happy View (1992), Casting Shadows (2003)
Regrettably, I have to admit that I first discovered ‘Wolfsheim’ very late. Yes, actually with the album ‘Spectators’ and their big radio breakthrough ‘Künstliche Welten’ and ‘Once In A Lifetime’. I still don’t understand how I missed this band in the 90s. The album ‘Spectators’ is a jewel in deep black. My favourite song on the album is ‘Heroin, She Said’, which is as beautiful as it is sad. This is the pure essence of Synth Pop and Gothic.
Deine Lakaien – Kasmodiah
Release Date: April 13th, 1999 Great Tracks: Return, Kiss The Future, My Shadows, Lass Mich, Fight Further recommend albums: Indicator (2010), Crystal Palace (2014)
The surely quietest album in the list is ‘Kasmodiah’ by ‘Deine Lakaien’. But if you get involved with this masterpiece, an extremely emotional album that can accompany you through a bleak valley. But it also stimulates you to reflect and with the exception of the song ‘Lass Mich’ even lets some happiness into your life.
Paradise Lost – Host
Release Date: May 21th, 1999 Great Tracks: So Much Is Lost, Nothing Sacred, In All Honesty, Ordinary Days, Permanent Solutions, Behind The Grey, Host Further recommend albums: Believe In Nothing (2001), Symbol Of Life (2002)
What is ‘Paradise Lost’ doing in this list, will one or the other ask oneself now? This is a Gothic Rock band! Yes, that’s true, but in the late 90s and early 2000s the band ventured into Synth Pop / Electrorock. I guess the album ‘Ultra’ from ‘Depeche Mode’ was the inspiration for the album ‘Host’. And I think it was quite successful. I don’t know how the album was accepted by the old ‘Paradise Lost’ fans, but I love the album ‘Host’ and the successors ‘Believe In Nothing’ and ‘Symbol Of Life’.
Too bad that the band unfortunately wrapped up the synthesizers again and dedicated themselves more to Gothic Rock. For me, this time was a peak with Paradise Lost. Maybe the old men will bring the electronic toys back to daylight at some point. (Fingers crossed)
Covenant – Northern Lights
Release Date: September 30th, 2002 Great Tracks: Monochrome, Call The Ships To Port, Bullet, Invisible And Silent, We Stand Alone, Winter Comes, We Want Revolution, Atlas Further recommend albums: Sequencer (1996), Europa (1998), United States Of Mind (2000), Skyshaper (2006), Modern Ruin (2011)
‘Covenant’ is an instance when it comes to black club classics. And when a track from the album ‘Northern Light’ is played, within seconds you can watch the dance floor filling up with a black dressed mass and dancing joyfully to the beats. Of course, there are also the hits ‘Call The Ships To Port’ and ‘Bullet’ on it. But overall I find the album to be the best album by Covenant in terms of quality and that’s why I repeat it at regular intervals.
Apoptygma Berzerk – You And Me Against The World
Release Date: September 12th, 2005 Great Tracks:In This Together, You Keep Me From Breaking Apart, Cambodia, Tuning In To The Frequency Of Your Soul, Mercy Kill, Lost In Translation, Maze, Shine On Further recommend albums: Welcome To Earth (2000), Harmonizer (2002), Somic Diary (2006), Rocket Science (2009)
‘Apoptygma Berzerk’ had released many great songs and some club hits long before the album ‘You And Me Against The World’. But also a lot of extremely experimental stuff that I personally didn’t like at all. With ‘You And Me Against The World’ the band convinced me. I inhaled the album in the year of release and even after that. Every song on this album is basically one dark radio hit after another. The follow-up album ‘Rocket Science’ is in no way inferior to this.
Camouflage – Relocated
Release Date: August 25th, 2006 Great Tracks: We Are Lovers, Motif Sky, The Perfect Key, The Pleasure Remains, Something Wrong Further recommend albums: Voices & Images (1988), Methods Of Silence (1989), Sensor (2003), Greyscale (2015)
Being familiar with ‘Camouflage’ from the very beginning will certainly raise objections and say that ‘Voices & Images’ is the milestone of ‘Camouflage’. And I also love the debut of the band, but the album ‘Relocated’ has somehow fascinated me especially. I suppose that despite all the electronics, the warm sound is what impresses me the most.
Pet Shop Boys – Yes
Release Date: March 23rd, 2009 Great Tracks:Love Etc., All Over The World, Beautiful People, Did You See Me Coming, Vulnerable, Pandemonium, The Way It Used To Be Further recommend albums: Please (1986), Actually (1987), Behaviour (1990), Nightlife (1999), Electric (2013), Super (2016)
The album ‘Yes‘ of the ‘Pet Shop Boys’ is among the best Pet Shop Boys albums ever only at number 5, but I still listen to this album most often. There is a lot of love, emotion and passion in this album and you can hear it with every note and every sung word. For me it’s the perfect album if I’m not feeling well emotionally and I don’t want to get lost in dark sounds. The album has pulled me out of a depression so many times that I carry it on my smartphone (offline) all the time.
Tying Tiffany – Peoples Temple
Release Date: May 7th, 2010 Great Tracks:3 Circle, Storyside, Lost Way, Miracle, Cecille, Border Line Further recommend albums: Undercover (2005)
The album ‘Peoples Temple‘ by ‘Tying Tiffany’ doesn’t really fit into the list. At least not musically, but I heard the album quite intensively for a long time. The album was released towards the end of the big Electroclash movement and has some elements of that special sound on it. The album is still independent enough to exist outside the Electroclash movement. For me it’s the best ‘Tying Tiffany’ album yet and a recommendation if you’re looking for something more Alternative.
The sound of Age Zero is a bit unwieldy during the first listening sessions. The big strength can be found in the lyrics which are really profound and very good. Almost every Age Zero song touches me in a special way. In principle I can sing every song by heart without any help, that’s how often I’ve heard the album.
The album ‘Til Death‘ is the birth of Industrial Pop. And thus a real milestone in the history of electronic music. The album really pulled me off my chair. An album with concentrated energy from danceability, hardness, gloom and yet radio compatible. To the point: Industrial music with an extremely danceable groove and melodic vibes. The album is the perfect soundtrack to collect a lot of energy or to discharge it explosively. In any case, the album is in a good mood and never gets boring.
The album ‘Metanoia‘ really helpt me going through a pretty bleak time. One month after the release of this album my mother died on cancer. Another bitter lesson I had to learn during this time: “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone”, is a saying which is unfortunately very true.
‘Metanoia’ is the album that helped me the most in dealing with my grief. So it’s one of the most listened albums for me, even if it’s very personal in this case. From today’s perspective, however, I remain convinced that this is a masterpiece that every Synth Pop fan should have in his/her collection.
In general, all Solar Fake albums are absolutely worth listening to and awesome as hell. With the album ‘Another Maniac Episode‘ the guys somehow managed to put a little bit more quality, variety and creativity into the production. Once you have seen at a concert how the audience almost freaks out when playing the tracks of this album, then you know what I mean.
The album was also my counterpart to the ‘IAMX’ album ‘Metanoia’. When I realized that my dark feelings overpowered me too much, the Solar Fake album gave me back the energy I needed to function normally again.
‘Priest’ is an “out of the blue” new favourite band to me. Overnight they were just there and it felt as if something long thought lost had been found by chance in the attic. The debut already sounds like a ‘Best of …’ to me. Every single track is one club grenade after another. The album ‘New Flesh‘ therefore played in a continuous loop in my car. Just thinking about a new ‘Priest’ album gives me a heartbeat.
@Priest: Please don’t let us wait too long for a new album!
Bonus – Not Synthpop, but listened a thousand times, too
Boy George – Cheapness And Beauty
Release Date: May 15th, 1995 Great Tracks: Funtime, Sad, God Don’t Hold A Grudge, Genocide Peroxide, If I Could Fly, Evil Is So Civilised Further recommend albums: (None)
During the final phase of the Grunge period, ‘Boy George’ also took a short trip into this wild time of the 90s and mixed Grunge with synthesizers. The result is called ‘Cheapness And Beauty’. When I saw the music video ‘Funtime‘, I was immediately infected by the new ‘Boy George’ sound. Lyrically the album also picked me up completely.
Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals
Release Date: September 15th, 1998 Great Tracks: Great Big White World, The Dope Show, Rock Is Dead, I Don’t Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me), The Last Day On Earth, Coma White Further recommend albums: Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) (2000), The Golden Age Of Grotesque (2003)
‘Marilyn Manson’ is like ‘Paradise Lost’ to me. In principle, it’s not really my cup of tea. But between the late 90s and early 2000s ‘Marilyn Manson’ also changed the sound completely and filled his album ‘Mechanical Animals’ with a lot of electronic sounds.
My first contact to this album and to ‘Marilyn Manson’ came through the then extremely controversial music video ‘The Dope Show’. I loved that sound right away and even though it felt wrong at first to think ‘Marilyn Manson’ was good next to And One, Depeche Mode and De/Vision, I just let myself be guided by my feelings and listened to the album. I thank myself for my open-mindedness, otherwise, I would probably never have heard this splendid masterpiece.
Your Spotify soundtrack to this article
This Spotify playlist contains all the recommended songs from the article ’20 Synth Pop milestones and collection must-haves’. Unfortunately the album ‘Relocated’ by ‘Camouflage’ is not online at Spotify. Alternatively I mixed in my highlights from the other recommended ‘Camouflage’ albums.
Listen to it a thousand times now:
What do you think is a Synth Pop milestone?
Use the comments feature to share your Synth Pop milestones with other people. Or tell us about an album you listen to all the time and what you associate with it or why it has a special meaning for you.
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