Mad World (1982) by Tears for Fears
Synth pop finally got a heavy does of angst when Tears for Fears hit the scene. Whereas most bands of the era were using synthesizers to create bouncy pop tunes, Roland Orzabal used his to create soundtracks to his own internal pain. The songs in which Curt Smith took the lead vocals, such as Mad World, tended to be the most popular of the group's tunes, but even with Smith singing, Orzabal's torture came shining through. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Shock the Monkey (1982) by Peter Gabriel
In the 1970s, Peter Gabriel fronted the band Genesis, which at the time was an experimental progressive rock group. Shortly after his departure from Genesis he had a minor hit with Solsbury Hill, meanwhile the band he'd left behind not only went on without him, they went from fringe act to a huge arena rock band selling tons of records around the globe. Gabriel chose his own path, crafting unique, critically acclaimed albums, though it would be years later before he would break into the big time. Shock the Monkey is a perfect example of Gabriel's artistry, mixing heavy percussion with cutting-edge synthesizer tones, while writing politically-charged lyrics about animal experiments ... a combo only someone like Peter Gabriel could pull off. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
People Are People (1984) by Depeche Mode
The decade saw a slew of British synth bands storming the charts, and one of the biggest was Depeche Mode. The band was one of the earliest in the genre, yet unlike the others of the day, Depeche Mode is still active and out there making records. The earliest of their songs were the bouncy synth pop largely created by Vince Clark, but when Clark left, the band was forced to find a new songwriter, which they did in their very own Martin Gore. Though Gore's style was much, much darker and more serious, the band blossomed -- and a perfect example is the anti-hate anthem People Are People. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
FREE listen!!! -- non-Hollywood audiobook!
An indie audiobook of an indie novel about... indie folks! Have a FREE listen to the entire audiobook of the novel non-Hollywood... and share it!
How do you make an audiobook in the most indie way possible? The audiobook for the novel non-Hollywood has been made in true indie fashion. Author Neal A. Yeager recruited actors from across the US to read chapters of the book. It's a natural fit, as the subject of the novel is... actors and indie film and music types.
How Soon Is Now? (1984) by The Smiths
Though they never achieved much in the way of commercial success in the US, The Smiths definitely qualify as one of the most influential bands of the 1980s. Countless bands of the 90s and beyond counted the group as an influence. The potent combination of Morissey (whose lyrics and voice are distinct in this world) and Johnny Marr (widely considered one of the greatest guitarists ever) was short-lived but powerful. How Soon Is Now took the famous Bo Diddley beat and bent it into something unrecognizably ethereal. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
West End Girls(1984) by Pet Shop Boys
West End Girls was the tune that brought Pet Shop Boys into the limelight. The song, which laments the class clashes and doomed loves of East End Boys and West End Girls, is carried along by a pulsing bass line and Neil Tennant's low-key vocals, which gives the song a haunting feel that creeps into the bones and stays there. Pet Shop Boys have gone on to be the biggest-selling duo in the UK, but this song was what brought their first exposure. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Bring on the Dancing Horses (1985) by Echo & the Bunnymen
Though this song was originally recorded for a John Hughes film, it is usually not thought of in the realm of John Hughes film songs. The song features an interesting use of infinite delay, plus, of all things, a harp. The odd imagery of Bring on the Dancing Horses is never really explained. Echo & the Bunnymen (who were named after a drum machine, though they stopped using said drum machine very early on) were one of those groups which experienced success in many parts of the world, but were never able to make much of a dent in the US. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Blister in the Sun (1983) by Violent Femmes
Discovered while busking in the parking lot of a Pretenders concert, Violent Femmes took their street-musician approach into the studio with them. The quirky Blister in the Sun features the same arrangement that the band would use on the street--an acoustic guitar, a bass, and a snare drum. The result is an infectious little tune that will have you humming along. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
The One Thing (1982) by INXS
There were quite a few Aussie bands coming over in the decade, and the most successful of them turned out to be INXS. There were a few songs along the way before they achieved huge international success. The One Thing is one such precursor, with Michaels Hutchence's trademark vocal style (part bluesy wail and part pretty-boy pout) laid atop crispy keys and perky guitars, the song was the perfect setup for the forthcoming album that would send this band into the big time. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Don't Let's Start (1987) by They Might Be Giants
Quirkiness personified. That would be how you'd describe the sound of They Might Be Giants. For most of their history they were 2 guys, one with a guitar and one with an accordian, playing along to a drum machine. The odd stutter-step syncopation of Don't Let's Start was an unexpected hit with listeners in the eighties. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
What is Love? (1983) by Howard Jones
When digital synthesizers first appeared on the scene, with their ability to sequence and instantly play back a performance, it was pretty much inevitable that someone like Howard Jones would emerge. Jones was a one-man-band, playing and recording all of the parts himself, even going so far as to play live this way. Many of his earlier live shows were just him ... and a whole bunch of electronic equipment. On What is Love Jones puts in his trademark layers of keyboards, including a beautiful and reverberating cascade of notes during the chorus. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)