20 Synth Pop milestones and collection must-haves

20 Synth Pop milestones and collection must-haves

A thousand times

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.

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20 Synth Pop milestones in a chronological order

Duran Duran - Duran Duran (The Wedding Album) (1993)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 (1993)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 (1994)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. You should also check out which pos­i­tion 'I Say I Say I Say' got in the art­icle 'What is the best Erasure album ever?'.

Mesh - In This Place Forever (1996)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 (1997)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.

You should also check the art­icle 'What is the best Depeche Mode album of all-time?'.

Beborn Beton - Truth (1997)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 (1998)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!

We also have an awe­some art­icle of the best De/Vision albums online. Read now 'What is the best De/Vision album ever?'.

Wolfsheim - Spectators (1999)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 (1999)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 (1999)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 (2002)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 (2005)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 (2006)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. In love to the band 'Camouflage' we recom­mend you also our art­icle 'What is the best Camouflage album ever?'.

Pet Shop Boys - Yes (2009)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 (2010)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.

Age Zero - Age Zero I (2013)Age Zero – Age Zero I

Release Date: January 1st, 2013
Great Tracks:
Age Zero, Itisuptome, Perfect Tragedy, Close Enough, Fischmarkt, Morning Street
Further recom­mend albums: Age Zero II (2015)

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.

Aethetic Perfection - 'Til Death (2014)Aesthetic Perfection – 'Til Death

Release Date: February 11th, 2014
Great Tracks:
Antibody, Lights Out (Ready to Go), Death Rattle, Big Bad Wolf, Oh, Gloria!, The Dark Half, The New Black
Further recom­mend albums: All Beauty Destroyed (2011), Into The Black (2019)

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.

IAMX - Metanoia (2015)IAMX – Metanoia

Release Date: October 2nd, 2015
Great Tracks:
No Maker Made Me, Happiness, North Star (X Edit), Say Hello Melancholia, The Background Noise, Look Outside, Oh Cruel Darkness Embrace Me
Further recom­mend albums: Volatile Times (2011), Alive In New Light (2018)

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.

Solar Fake - Another Maniac Episode (2015)Solar Fake – Another Maniac Episode

Release Date: October 30th, 2015
Great Tracks:
Not What I Wanted, Fake To Be Alive, All The Things You Say, Under Control, Observer, I Don't Want You In Here
Further recom­mend albums: Frontiers (2011), Reasons To Kill (2013), You Win, Who Cares? (2018)

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 - New Flesh (2017)Priest – New Flesh

Release Date: November 17th, 2017
Great Tracks:
The Pit, Vaudeville, History In Black, The Cross, Private Eye, Nightmare Hotel, Virus, Call My Name
Further recom­mend albums: (No oth­er album avail­able yet)

'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!

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Bonus – Not Synthpop, but listened a thousand times, too

Boy George - Cheapness And Beauty (1995)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 (1998)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.

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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.

Thanks for read­ing and don't for­get to share the art­icle on your channels!

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