What is Synthpop; who are ‘Years & Years’?

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Synthpop is the genre, which vaguely speaking, initially formed in the 60s mainly in the UK and Japan but made a healthy existence in the 80s and 90s and has not stopped cropping up since, just like an ex who’s realised what they’ve lost, long after the break up. The genre is cheesy, yet credibly catchy and contagious. It’s very 80s and older examples of the genre include: Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Empire of the Sun whilst modern examples include: Bastille, La Roux through to select Lady Gaga tracks as well as the infamous Tove Lo that provided our summer heartbreak hit, Stay High.

The genre continues to be a controversial one with many a music snob suggesting that it is ‘not real music’ and it perhaps disregards credibility from those who work hard to produce music from the use of physical instruments alone. If you hadn’t realised, synthpop is mainly produced on a synthesiser, the epitome of future pop music it would seem. Alas, I will discount boring you with the technicalities which I am no expert on. Aside from all this jargon, the genre also falls into the topical debate of ‘digitally produced music vs. physical instrumental produced music’. The argument is that nowadays, if your student loan has allowed you to purchase an indestructible and clever Apple Mac of some sort, you are able to become the next Calvin Harris in about a week. There is nothing wrong with that of course. A large percentage of modern and future music is and will continue to be, produced by a laptop which, if like me, you do not have the patience to learn an instrument is great, you can still create decent floor-fillers from the comfort of your bedroom. Despair not, those who solely sing/dance, you too can have your cake.

I feel a vague introduction to the genre and its styles would help not just those of you reading this, but myself too. As I write, I have learnt something I had very little knowledge on.

About 2 months ago I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline when I saw a video posted onto a friends profile. It was the now very popular track, King, released early this year which is currently top 5 in the UK charts, by the increasingly popular trio named, Years & Years. The electronica/synthpop lads were actually formed way back in 2010 when lead vocalist and actor, Olly Alexander was heard singing in the shower, when other members of the group thought he had the perfect vocals to complete their then quintet. Apart from King, the trio has a lot more to offer. And their secret weapon of course, is the talented lead vocalist, Olly Alexander, initially an actor who has starred in Skins and The Riot Club to name a few. The long necked, lushly strong singer possess some kind of magical ‘vocal for days’ that ascends effortlessly through all of his range, never succumbing to bridges or breaks and being able to be full way past the difficultly renowned G bridge where so many other male artists succumb to their head voice instead of blending. He is a definite tenor, with a light timbre that produces a beautifully sweet, soothing but strong tone with a naturally quick vibrato that can be used effectively as his use of dynamic when performing live, and live he can sing. Even if he is a little pitchy, it’s a quirk. Next time you sing in the shower, be aware if you are half decent, a friend of a friend may ask you to be their lead vocalist in their new group.

Olly, Mikey and Emre between them are fluent in the use of 8 different digital and physical instruments; these boys are more than just a lazy laptop creation. The trio released a select amount of EPs but their long-awaited debut album, Communion will be released in June. Diction and pitch are not Alexander’s strongest qualities but you can forgive him because after a quick lyric search to find out what he is actually singing, one finds that his storytelling skills are not half bad, they are also ridiculously honest. Olly is openly gay and stated in a recent interview that the majority of his songs are about dysfunctional relationships he’s had, he also said he is weirdly attracted to rejection. Olly mentions his past boyfriends in his songs, however whilst his exes do receive a frequent mention, lyrically almost anyone can relate to these songs; lyrics that are not ashamed of being both hard-hitting and beautifully sensitive, lyrics that make Sam Smith seem almost cowardly when it comes to discussing his sexual orientation.

The trio performed a personal favourite, a track I am currently obsessed with, Eyes Shut on VEVO a few days ago, accompanied by synthesisers, beautiful violins, back up soul singers and the extremely talented Alexander belting away on a black Yamaha whilst the others edited the sound. Just goes to show, these boys are both strong live and recorded, such a refreshing, quintessentially English trio that you should definitely listen to and watch out for. The future for these lads is promising provided they are not consumed by commercialism.

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