Ah, the ’80s. Back when Michael Jackson was captivating audiences with the release of Thriller, Madonna began shaking things up and making her own rules with songs like Papa Don’t Preach and Like a Virgin, and teen pop sensation Tiffany was making shoppers dance in their Reeboks while singing her cover of the Shondell’s hit I Think We’re Alone Now during her nationwide tour on the mall circuit. It was undoubtedly a decade of change for the music industry. Disco was out and artists were beginning to experiment with new sounds. It was all about three things: the synthesizer, upbeat rhythms, and light, poppy vocals – much of which faded away in the ’90s when music began to be dominated by a much heavier, grungier sound.
Although ’80s music as a whole has faded out of the limelight there is no doubt that it continues to influence the sound in the music that is being made today. Some current artists use subtle bits of the music from that time period in their songs while there are others who have based almost their entire work off of experimenting with the specific sound that we all attribute to ’80s music. I have placed these bands in to a genre all their own that I call “modern ’80s”. They have taken some of the best parts of what makes ’80s music so great and really made it their own. And there are more out there than what you would think. I have compiled a list of who I believe are some of the best modern ’80s artists today making songs laced with the sound that ’80s music lovers crave.
1) Tame Impala
This Australian based, psychedelic rock band is made up of artists Kevin Parker, Jay Watson, and Dominic Simper. They began making music together in 2007 and released their first studio album, Innerspeaker, to rave reviews worldwide back in 2010. The band is known for not being afraid to experiment with their sound which has lead to a long list of unique tracks that anyone who is an ’80s music fan will enjoy.
2) St Lucia
Jean-Philip Grobler is a South African born, Brooklyn based artist whose sound can be best described as electronic/synth pop. He began writing music when he was ten years old and released his first full length, self titled album back in 2012. He in inspired by artists such as Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Sting, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, and Radiohead.
3) Washed Out
Ernest Green is an America singer/songwriter from Perry, GA. After graduating and having a difficult time finding work he ended up moving in to his parents’ house where he began producing songs in a bedroom studio. He has since released two albums after signing a contract with SubPop. His sound can be best described as chillwave/synthpop. This song in particular is something that is something that you would expect to hear in the closing credits of a John Hughes’ film.
This Canadian, electro funk/nu disco group is made up of two members: Dave “Dave 1” Macklovitch and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayal. The duo met when they were just fifteen years old. They have spent their lives since growing together and developing a sound that is all their own. They have performed together around the world, most notably playing Bonnaroo Music Festival several times.
Siblings Ben and Katie Mitchell form this American, dream/synthpop duo. They grew up together in Philly and began teaming up to write music in 2013. The duo took their name from the flower species narcissus papyraceus, also known as paperwhites. They are heavily influenced by artists such as Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Marvin Gaye, Postal Service, Tears for Fears, and Stevie Wonder. The brother/sister team now live in New York City where they continue to produce new sounds. If someone inserted this song in to a scene in The Breakfast Club you would never question it. It is straight out of the ’80s.
This is the collaborative effort of Madeline Priest, producer Dave Kazyk, and Chandler Strang. Priest was established in Orlando,FL in 2013. Their sound can best be described as indie pop and although they have an ’80s sound they mention being most influenced by modern artists like Grimes and Zola Jesus.
You can’t mention Priest being influenced by Grimes without Grimes being included on this list. And she has earned her place. Claire Elise Boucher is a Canadian “Jill of all Trades”. She is a singer, songwriter, producer, and director who first began recording experimental music in college. She is influenced by hip hop, R&B, noise rock, medieval music, and grime music (hence the name). She has received a Webby and a Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year. You may recognize her song Genesis from a commercial for Expedia, which helped her to receive national attention in early 2015.
8) Mitch Murder
Johan Bengtsson is an electronic/synthwave musician from Stockholm, Sweden. He has said that his sound can be best described as “jazz, cheesy ’50s bossa nova, ’70s motown, and ’80s pop”. He is influenced by artists such as Paul Hardcastle, Jan Hammer, Vince DiCola.
9) Gordon Voidwell
This artist describes his style as “memorex pop”. He is influenced by Michael Jackson and learned to use a synthesizer while studying music at Oberlin. He has not released many tracks yet but I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
10) Desire / Chromatics
These are two different bands but they are both compromised of (mostly) the same people: Megan Louise (Desire), Johnny Jewel (Desire/Chromatics), and Nat Walker (Desire/Chromatics). Hailing from Montreal as well as Portland, these three artists came together in 2009 to make music that has been described as synthpop/Italo disco. Their music has not only been sampled by artists like Kid Cudi but has also been featured in a major motion picture when several of their songs were used in the movie Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. While I appreciate all of the artists on this list, Desire/Chromatics are by far my favorite.