“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” exclaimed Doctor Emmet Brown at the end of the seminal ‘80s classic Back To The Future, immediately before traveling through time into the once distant year of 2015. According to director Robert Zemeckis, the future would bring flying cars, hoverboards and pizza that needed to be “hydrated” rather than cooked. Though we can’t make our engines run on garbage, or watch Shaun White grab gold medals in the hoverboard half-pipe at the X-Games (yet), and the entire philosophy of time-travel throughout the BTTF series makes little sense, Zemeckis did get something right. People today cannot get enough of ‘80s culture. Within the last few years, there has been a Knight Rider remake, a reboot of the Batman film franchise, two Terminator reboots (film and television), three Transformers adaptations and a Tron sequel. ‘80s stars such as Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have rekindled the media spotlight they enjoyed as Brat Pack members 30 years ago. Neil Patrick Harris (once known to the world as Doogie Howswer, M.D.) once again teaches us how to be awesome every week on How I Met Your Mother. This is not just a trend in the film and television worlds either. Thanks to brands like American Apparel, it seems once again that girls think brightly colored leggings are totally bitchin’. At the same time, guys rock tank tops and Ray-Ban wayfarers saying to themselves, “Hey, Tom Cruise convinced people he was cool and not at all crazy by dressing like this! Maybe it’ll work for me!”
Music has followed suit, with famous mainstream and indie artists embracing the futuristic, bombastic touchstones of ‘80s music and recycling them for the 21st century listener. Thus, the following list of tracks features current artists embracing their inner Marty McFly. But instead of a flying Delorean, they will use synths and drum machines to manipulate the space-time continuum.
1. “Hunting For Witches” by Bloc Party
This paranoid post-punk track from 2007’s A Weekend In the City rides an airtight drumbeat, flickering TV samples and a guitar riff that sounds like it was transcribed from the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams,” an ‘80s classic. Two thirds of the way through, the band throws in some Cure-esque backup vocals to drive it all home.
2. “Mikey Rocks” by The Cool Kids
Abandon the uneasiness of the previous track by chilling with Midwestern duo The Cool Kids for a laid-back boast-fest. Lead MC Mikey Rocks lets you know who he is over Chuck Inglish’s booming 808, the electronic drum machine that gave early rap its distinctive sound.
3. “Digital Love” by Daft Punk
Daft Punk are French House music deities, and “Digital Love” exemplifies exactly what they do best. Opening with a George Duke sample, the groove builds as they add vocoders and a disco drum beat until it all breaks down, only to be rebuilt again with a massive keyboard solo.
4. “Paranoid” by Kanye West Featuring Mr. Hudson and Kid Cudi
Kanye’s entire 808s and Heartbreak experiment drew heavily from ‘80s pop, citing everyone from Peter Gabriel to Prince as influences. This is most evident on the upbeat, carefree, “Paranoid,” which has perfectly processed drums, auto-tuned crooning from Kanye and a hook from Kid Cudi to help you forget about all those nasty rumors flying around.
5. “I Can Change” by LCD Soundsystem
Modded synths and heavy reverb back James Murphy as he begs “dance with me until I feel all right” with a hint of David Byrne in his voice.
6. “Humdrum Town” by Theophilus London
“The rain falls hard on a humdrum town,” crooned Morrissey on the Smiths’ 1984 single, “William, it was Really Nothing.” Brooklyn’s Theophilus London borrows that phrase for this pulsating retro dance track. Theo raps classily and sings the hook like a bizzaro Kid Cudi on this, one of his earliest offerings.
7. “All Alone” by Toro Y Moi
Chaz Bundick has always been making blippy, synth heavy dance tracks. With “All Alone,” he goes straight for the Top Gunsoundtrack. This song features more synth voices than your average
Yamaha keyboard and masterful drum rolls that bounce from ear to ear.
8. “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” by The Weeknd
This track from the Canadian R&B upstart relies heavily on a sample of uber-cool post-punk group Siouxie and The Banshees. With lyrics about partying, debauchery and cocaine, the track is a haunting tale of ‘80s style excess.
9. “2080” by Yeasayer
Just like LCD Soundsystem, Yeasayer preach from the book of David Byrne and Brian Eno, and it’s obvious. Glimmering production and a Middle-Eastern flare scream out ‘80s Talking Heads as Chris Keating sings and eventually chants about the utopian future of the year 2080.