The ’80s feel like a lifetime away, and for many in the scene, they actually are (yikes). The good news is the decade has left a longstanding musical legacy.
The incorporation of 1980s sound elements into modern music is hardly new, but its frequency seems to be rising. It seems impossible to turn on the radio nowadays without being thrown back by popular favorites such as LANY or the 1975.
The persistent influence of the ’80s isn’t lost on the alternative genre. Here are 10 of our favorite alt artists who are noticeably inspired by the decade.
Mom Rock are one of the most eclectic bands in the alternative scene right now, so it’s no surprise that they’re exemplary for ’80s-derived influence. The group bring nostalgia from multiple angles, scratching both those power-pop and rock itches simultaneously. For a good sample of their diverse stylistic leanings, check out their 2020 EP, I Wish Every Day Was Today.
Oceanator is the solo project of singer-songwriter Elise Okusami. While her overarching style is post-rock, she incorporates a number of elements for a totally unique sound. The ’80s influence is most recognizable in her poppy synth infusions. Check out her debut album, Things I Never Said, to see what we mean.
’80s nostalgia courses through the Ivy‘s entire discography. The indie-pop trio bring the synth hard, leaning into a retro vibe that’s wonderfully dreamy. The group’s latest EP, We Move Faster At Night, is a great representation of the throwback sounds they have to offer.
Dana Jean Phoenix
You can’t release an album called Synth City and not be a beacon for ’80s reminiscence. Dana Jean Phoenix is another artist who bleeds nostalgia. Her modern, neon-laced take on synthwave sets her apart from the alternative crowd and has earned well-deserved spots on electronic charts. The influence runs deep, but we recommend checking out her 2020 collaborative album with Powernerd, Megawave, to start.
The Night Game
If you haven’t heard of this project yet, let us be the first to tell you… Boys Like Girls‘ vocalist Martin Johnson has been dabbling in new wave. The Night Game debuted in 2017 but is evocatively reminiscent of decades past, drawing on both contemporary and power-pop stylings. For a taste of everything Johnson has to offer through this outfit, check out his latest EP, A Postcard From The City Of Angels.
Grayscale might not be the first band who come to mind when you think of ’80s pop, but damn if they haven’t been killing the vibe since Nella Vita. While we’d hardly characterize them as having an overall retro sound, the distinctive tones incorporated on that album and onward are hard to miss. Not sure you hear it? Check out their latest single, “Diamond,” and come back to us.
The Killers have been pulling influence from ’80s synth-pop ever since their formation. It’s hardly surprising then that guitarist Dave Keuning carries a similar style into his solo work. Give his debut album, Prismism, a stream and try telling us you weren’t teleported back 40 years.
If you want to be slapped in the face with danceable ’80s nostalgia, there’s no better outfit to turn to. An electronic side project by AFI‘s Davey Havok and Jade Puget, Blaqk Audio are rooted in synth-pop and darkwave. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any track in their catalog that isn’t wonderfully inspired, but we recommend starting with their latest album, Beneath The Black Palms.
Bleachers‘ (Jack Antonoff) recent collaboration with Bruce Springsteen on the single “chinatown” should serve as enough proof of the one-man band’s ’80s vibe. If that’s not sufficient, though, go stream his sophomore album, Gone Now. Spoiler alert: Antonoff’s catchy implementation of pop and rock elements from the decade is sure to plant itself in your head for days.
The poster child for stylistic variety, Palmist blend ’80s pop with modern rock and metal elements. The result is a totally unique sound that maintains a hint of familiarity rooted in the decade. For a particularly evocative example, check out their recently released “Wildfire (Synthwave Mix).”
Who are your favorite alternative bands bringing the ’80s into modern music? Let us know in the comments!