Synthpop and Futurepop: The Retro-Futuristic Trend And The Bands You Should Look Out For

Genres are tricky things to fully follow. Everyone defines them slightly differently, with different artists, different styles, and different sounds. This can lead to big and confusing clashes, a big example of this would be over in the metal world, where one person’s nu-metal is another’s witch house. The contrast between electronic futurepop and synthpop is another one of these clashes; they often get thrown into the mix with new wave, EBM, electroclash and hundreds of other genres, which makes it very difficult to identify a distinct sound. So, what exactly is the difference between futurepop and synthpop? And what bands should you be looking out for?

Synthpop

Synthpop evolved when New Wave was at its height, becoming prominent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As synthesizers developed, Synthpop developed with its reliance on powerful synth-based sound, drum machines, and music sequencers. With Gary Numan’s 1979 breakthrough hit ‘Cars’, synthpop was catapulted into the mainstream and saw the rise of other big acts including Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Duran Duran.

Synthpop’s high-80s feel is a staple of the genre, many old hits are still popular today and new hits are being released thicker and faster than ever. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released a new album, The Punishment of Luxury, this year, while Synthpop indie bands like Salt Ashes or Austra continue to grow in popularity.

This 80s feel from synthpop has also spilled out into other areas of popular culture; mirrored shades, pegged jeans and white heels follow the genre around wherever it hits. Big and pixel-y Retro games like MegaRace 1 or Snail Trek would be lost without their heavy Synthpop soundtracks, even Dunder Casino has caved to the influence of the 80s with their Neon Staxx Slot, complete with an 80s aesthetic and soundtrack.

Futurepop

Futurepop evolved in the late 1990s with groups like VNV Nation and Apoptygma Bezerk, with the term ‘Futurepop’ being coined by the lead singers of these two groups. The genre emerged in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, featuring heavy Synthpop influences, but taking the synth to a whole new level.

The futurepop sound places far more emphasis on synth, EBM and trance sounds. You can really hear this symbolic sound in Gatekeeper’s single Chains, where the muscle motor at the start gives way to a heavy 80s influence, and strong electronic sound. Other examples include Mind.in.a.box, Neuroticfish, Seabound, Cue to Recall and Neuroactive, which all present their own take on the futurepop sound.

Synthpop and futurepop are linked together, just as they have ties with all the other electric music genres and even further afield. Futurepop itself draws a lot of its inspiration from earlier synthpop bands. But the key feature that makes these genres distinct is all based on the synth. While synthpop artists use the synth to create a key sound that almost immediately reminds you of the 80s, Futurepop artists often take a heavier stance and really push a gritty electronic feel. Neither is better or worse – after all, music is all down to personal taste, but it helps to know where the line is drawn, should you be looking for a particular style at any point in your musical exploits.

Kelly Murphy
Owner, writer, and editor of Indie Minded; Social Media Marketing & Relationship Consulting via Indie Minded Media; Be sure to give me a follow on Twitter @IndieMurphy or @IndieMindedMedia

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