2017 has been a tough year for me with more lows than highs. Grieving the loss of a loved one, along with family, business and health challenges – the stuff life is made of! Still, the one thing which always keeps me moving forward and gives life meaning, is making music.
I feel kind of ashamed that my last album of original music – Mountain King was released in February 2013, which means I’ve been working on the current album for almost 5 years! Over this time, I’ve written and recorded enough songs for 3 albums – except, up until 2017, it wasn’t feeling like an album. It was like a collection of songs, each of which could have been from a previous Space March album. So this year, I set myself the task of being true to my Twitter tagline and “find a new direction for synthpop”.
I was curious to hear what other artists were doing in 2017, and probably listened to more new music this year than I have in quite some time. I listened to the latest releases from my old synthpop and indie pop favourites and also explored the Synthwave scene which is markedly different from Modern Synthpop. I found enjoyment in some of what I listened to, and some of it left me cold, but nothing was quite what was in my head. In a way, this was good, because it encouraged me to define my own sound for the new album, which is titled Future Memories. The forthcoming album is expected to be released in February or March 2018.
Space March has always sounded quite different to other Modern Synthpop artists, which is clearly good in one sense, but has also kept me on the periphery of the scene. The thing I found fascinating about the newer Synthwave movement is how much more popular it is than the Modern Synthpop scene (well, at least on Spotify) despite both being inspired by 80s electronic music. The two scenes have evolved in different ways – Modern Synthpop riding in the wake of Depeche Mode, and Synthwave as a more recent sub-genre of electronic dance music with its roots in French House, 80s sci-fi film scores and electro kitsch. Or as Swedish doctor come Synthwave artist Robert Parker describes it – “nostalgia with selective memory loss”.
Like many, I really enjoyed the Stranger Things Netflix series, and loved the music. You don’t often hear strikingly, memorable film/TV theme music any more, but Stranger Things has been the exception – a simple arpeggiated major seventh chord, but done so well. This prompted me to further explore the Synthwave scene and realise that there is another, more experimental side to the scene.
IMHO, the best Synthpop album of 2017 was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury and the best Indie Pop album was The Shins – Heartworms. I particularly like the fact that both of these artists have been putting out albums for a long time and they both have released albums which are every bit as good at their classic, defining albums. Great songs, fresh sounding production and performances is what we are all striving for as musicians, and this goes to show that age need not be a barrier.
Given this is the last day of 2017, I have created a Spotify playlist with 16 of my favourite songs from 2017 as a kind of DJ Set for New Year’s Eve – enjoy, and happy 2018!