The ever-illusive and evolving scene of synth-pop, rooted in the new-wave style that was crafted by up-and-coming bands in the late 1970s, still remains as prevalent today as it did back when it first hit the mainstream. Although the genre had been gracefully reaching a halt, Connecticut based multi-instrumentalists MGMT helped bring synth-pop back out of the darkness with their incredible award-winning debut album Oracular Spectacular (2008). To this day, the album stands as a strong influence for the 21st-century revival of synth-pop.
The ‘new-wave’ style of synth-pop originated during the time of production-based experimentalism, with British duo Pet Shop Boys and the popular Norweigan band A-ha hitting the global charts due to the quirky nature of their sounds. In the late 1980s, however, the once-popular genre of synth-pop slowly began to blend not so subtly into a new form of music that hit the US charts – dance music. The synth-pop genre, known for its quirky, hypnotic sound, became engulfed by the somewhat repetitive nature of dance.
When synth-pop began to fade slowly into obscurity, a select number of bands from around the world began to pick up the pace and drag the genre back from the grave, with MGMT being at the forefront. It is important to note that although Oracular Spectacular to this day remains a critical and influential success, MGMT’s debut album struggled to pick up sales across the globe but found popularity amongst the UK music scene – debuting at number 8 in the Official UK Charts.
Oracular Spectacular now holds platinum record sales across the globe. The success of MGMT’s beginning not only shows through their literal popularity but their influence amongst the new ‘new-wave’ of 21st-century synth-pop. Bands such as Empire of the Sun, M83, and CHVRCHES employ a similar style to MGMT, but in more recent years it is clear that MGMT’s resurrection of synth-pop has been adopted by the likes of Irish alt-pop band Two Door Cinema Club, English psychedelic band Glass Animals and the increasingly popular Tame Impala.
Oracular Spectacular is full of back-to-back bangers that couldn’t be more catchy if they tried, seamlessly blending synthesised pop with an indie twist. Many may know the album’s hit song ‘Kids’, due to its use in the popular console game FIFA ‘09. Alongside ‘Kids’, notable songs include the dreamy ‘Electric Feel’ and the punchy ‘Time to Pretend’.
Now onto their fourth album, MGMT continue to use the synth-pop style throughout their discography. In a time where indie and alternative music is favoured over dance and psychedelia, it is incredible to see more popular modern bands adapting the style to move synth-pop into the current musical climate.
Oracular Spectacular is available to listen to now via Sony Music. Check out ‘Time To Pretend’ down below.