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Contributing to this article: Paola Bassanese & Charlotte Howell
Hurts’ epic, electronic sound captures a mix of influences of 70s Krautrock, 80s New Wave and 90s R&B whilst injecting edgy and arty themes to create synth pop that manages to sound modern and groundbreaking.
Duo Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson reached almost overnight success as Hurts and continue to be one of the most interesting and exciting bands in the UK and worldwide. Hurts’ first two albums ‘Happiness’ and ‘Exile’ flew to top ten charts across Europe and recent album ‘Surrender’ has also received critical and public acclaim.
Pioneers of the rebirth of British synth-pop Hurts have taken the sound of some of Britain’s biggest bands of the past and created their own form of moody, brooding modern indie music. Their sound only appears to be getting bigger and is constantly evolving into timeless pop anthems.
Essential Albums: ‘The Magic Position’, ‘The Bachelor’, ‘Lupercalia’
Essential Tracks: ‘The Magic Position’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘The City’
Multi-instrumentalist and delicate poet, Patrick Wolf is the ultimate experimentalist and armed with his heavily produced electronic backing, Wolf creates equally as deep and artistic soundscapes as Hurts but with more subtle and delicate productions.
Hurts have remixed several of Patrick Wolf’s hits and the two acts have shared several stages together whilst touring. Hurts and Patrick Wolf share tinges of new romantic sounds and blissfully full sounding anthems.
Essential Albums: ‘To Lose My Life’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Big TV’
Essential Tracks: ‘Death’, ‘Fairwell to the Fairground’, ‘Bigger Than Us’, ‘There Goes Our Love Again’
Dark and uplifting, White Lies’ post-punk attitude creates a Gothic sounding ambiance that along with their deep brooding vocals evoke a similar atmosphere and equally catchy and anthemic sound as Hurts, whilst stopping short of fully engaging with Hurts’ synthesizers.
Sharing the influence of 80s band Depeche Mode, Hurts and White Lies capture the essence of the band’s stadium filling power and along with the two groups equally low and foreboding vocals share an ambiance that evokes great bands of the past.
Essential Albums: ‘Complete Me’, ‘Completely Me’, ‘For You’
Essential Tracks: ‘Better Off as Two’, ‘Confusion Girl’, ‘Do it in the AM’, ‘These Streets’
Electro-pop wizard Vincent James Turner, AKA Frankmusik, creates the kind of synth pop romanticism that evokes everything that catchy and fun about electro pop, whilst keeping an element of the darkness that is laced throughout Hurts’ music.
Frankmusik’s album ‘Complete Me’ along with its funky pop sound was produced by Stuart Price, who also helped bring a more pop-centric sound to Hurts recent album ‘Surrender’.
Britain has always produced some of the most exciting electro-pop acts of all time. Before Hurts were introducing synth-pop to a new generation previous generations of British music fans had already come to know the delights of the genre through some of the acts that made British electro pop so successful and cleared a path for bands like Hurts.
Essential Albums: ‘Violator’, ‘Music For The Masses’, ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Songs Of Faith and Devotion’
Essential Tracks: ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘People Are People’, ‘Everything Counts’, ‘See You’
New romantic pioneers Depeche Mode brought a whole new dance feel to snyth-pop and became the definitive electro pop band of the 1980s, inspiring generations of electronic innovators ever after.
Hurts have spoken of Depeche Mode being their primary influence and having found fame have since had the opportunity to work with their heroes on several tracks and even had their hit ‘Wonderful Life’ remixed by the 80s stars.
Don’t forget to also have a look at these other bands similar to Depeche Mode.
Essential Albums: ‘Duran Duran’, ‘Rio’, ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’, ‘Astronaut’
Essential Tracks: ‘Girls on Film’, ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, ‘Rio’, ‘Is There Something I should Know’
Personifying the new wave revolution of the 1980s, Duran Duran were the pop funk mainstream success story of British electro fused music.
Duran Duran offer a poppier direct sound than Hurts initially produced, however their recent approach on their ‘Surrender’ album shows a more mainstream sounds with single ‘Some Kind of Heaven’ evoking visions of Duran Duran’s epic ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ single.
Sounding a bit like Florence and the Machine, MS MR created a stir on the Jay Leno Show with their performance of Hurricane.
Great vocals and clearly inspired by 80s music, MS MR rely on a mixture of electronica and atmospheric sounds.
Similarities to Hurts
You can hear it in the way the keyboards create the main melody, layered with lead singer Lizzy Plapinger’s voice.
What I like about MS MR
The retro sound of electronica will always be my favourite type of music. MS MR managed to draw inspiration from the 80s and bring them up to date for new audiences.
What’s different about MS MR
Apart from the striking image of the lead singer, who likes to change hair colour at any occasion, MS MR have a fresh approach to pop music – drawing a fine line between commercial and non-commercial music.
Innovative arrangements and original lyrics characterise the music of Alt-J (more on them in Jonny’s article).
A more guitar-based sound, but still very atmospheric. Dare I say they are a bit more folksy? I’m not talking as folksy as Mumford and Sons, but the vocal arrangements to me sound like they’ve been inspired by folk music.
What I like about Alt-J
The cultural references represent a great draw towards Alt-J. You feel you are getting extra I.Q. points just listening to the lyrics.
What’s different about Alt-J
I guess I can summarise it as “it’s ok to be nerdy”.
Another great band that completely nails atmospheric sounds.
Soft vocals, a hint of electro and a sense of longing. The mood is introspective; you can imagine yourself watching the sunset or stare at the void in a darkened room.
What I like about The xx
The simplicity of the music is deceiving: although the arrangements are paired down, with sparse use of guitar and bass, it’s all about giving the listener a breathing space.
What’s different about The xx
Only The xx can use steel drums and a sampler and together make them sound perfectly modern.
Woodkid the Wunderkid!
I am totally throwing a spanner in the works (and, dare I say it, saving the best for last) and picked Polish-born, French-raised artist Yoann Lemoine aka Woodkid and his avant-garde take on music, defined by critics as “epic” and even “patriotic”.
I discovered him while I was checking out cover versions of Pharrell‘s Happy and discovered his totally mesmerising orchestral, brooding version of the song (entitled Woodkid Sad Remix).
Is the term “ballad” a swear word? You see, I am not a fan a ballads (I’m against “soppy” stuff!), so let’s call slower pieces chill out or introspective music.
If, for example, Hurts‘ Stay is all about string arrangements and vocals, then Woodkid‘s Boat Song soothes with piano, keyboards and wind instruments.
What I like about Woodkid
Woodkid wins hands down in terms of originality. Most of all, his use of orchestras in his music is totally brilliant. In interviews he mentioned he grew up surrounded by classical musicians and music teachers.
What’s different about Woodkid
He is a true Renaissance man combining visual arts and music. Besides producing his own music, he also directed music videos for Lana Del Rey, Katy Perry and Rihanna. His music is, indeed, cinematic.
Synth-pop has very much enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, and if you are still looking for more bands like Hurts, then make sure you check out giants HAIM and The Killers who have also created epic electro-fused pop. Also check out The power of Little Boots and the storytelling of Clare Maguire.
And if you have some other hidden synth-pop gems you can share with us, then do! Comment below and tell us all about them, we’d love to hear from you.
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