I like Thomas Dolby. What else might I like?

Since the thread on The Golden Age of Wireless some months back I’m back to listening to it, but much more to The Flat Earth. What I am enjoying and looking for are:

  • Clever lyrics
  • Good musicians
  • Outstanding production values for the time (old is fine if it was recorded and remastered well)
  • A soundscape I can get lost in when I listen with in-ear earplugs, the closest I can get to direct brain injection

Who else is fun and good?

XTC. Start with Skylarking (which fits all your needs perfectly) and work from there.

Pet Shop Boys. Actually or Please are in the same general time frame, but all of their albums are excellent.

Howard Jones.

An under-appreciated genius.


The The, especially Infected

Good recommend on Skylarking.

I’d say Split Enz and Gary Numan.

However, there really is only one Thomas Dolby.

I’m not sticking with the 80s, though I love them and an 80s mix tape could be nice. I’m looking anywhere from today to a 125 years ago, though production values did improve with the adoption of electrical recording starting in 1925. Though before that I love how the master was cut directly by the sound of a human voice. I do like the cleanliness of electronic instruments, but I’m not married to them. And I’m not married to a particular style.



Would They Might Be Giants qualify? Not electronica, but if the OP likes clever wordplay and good musicianship, s/he can do worse than The Magnetic Fields.

I love TD, and a lot of the other choices already mentioned, but those two might be worth your time.

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin.

Not the Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, but a completely different Dave Stewart. They are contemporaries of Thomas Dolby (he even appears in one of their music videos, a twisted take on the old song “It’s My Party”).

For years, they only released singles, one side a prog-flavored cover, the other side an original. They covered Dolby’s “Leipzig”, for instance. Eventually, they started releasing CDs.

The song that sound most like Dolby is"Golden Rain" from their album “Spin”.

I’m blinded by this…

Maybe Talking Heads.

I listened to a lot of Dolby in the 80s. At the same time I was listening to a lot of Yello and Art of Noise.
The Yello albums from around the same time period (One Second, Flag, Baby) use a lot of electronic samples, rhythm, and real instruments with high production value.

Pretty much anything by XTC will be right up your alley, though they’re definitely less synth oriented. Start with Skylarking, then either Oranges & Lemons, English Settlement (which arguably sounds the most Dolby-like), or Black Sea. They also have a handful of decent compilations, any of which are fine places to start.

My XTC is all on cassette and I haven’t hooked up my probably-could-be-worse Akai deck from the Goodwill yet and haven’t fixed my broken low-end-but-pretty-good Nakamichi. In fact, my whole system is torn apart. I should work on that instead of posting here, but MP3s are easier.

Breaking news! Just discovered the (ðe?) Mediæval Bæbes. Slightly, if at all, updated Greatest Hits of the 14th Century. Move over, Celtic Woman! PBS needs this for their next pledge [del]week[/del] month.

Laurie Anderson - Mr. Heartbreak

If you like that sort of thing, you may well like Dead Can Dance, Loreena McKennitt, and possibly Clannad (though Clannad gets a little muzak-y for my tastes - Enya also falls into this trap, unsurprisingly as she is related to several Clannad members). If you like Dead Can Dance, you could go down the rabbit hole of Lisa Gerrard side projects, which are all pretty worthwhile.

Back to the more 80-pop-ish, you might want to take a listen to Cocteau Twins. Strictly speaking it doesn’t cover your requirement of clever lyrics, as the singer invents her own words (Lisa Gerrard from DCD does this, too) to fit the music. That could qualify as clever, depending on how you look at it.

For that matter, to continue in the glossalalia vein but getting much more modern, you should try a listen to Sigur Ros. It’s more rock, but with lots of atmospheric musicality. And then to follow the Icelandic trail from Sigur Ros, you could listen to some Bjork - at times she seems to be inventing her own language, but she’s singing in English. Theoretically from Iceland, possibly from another planet… :slight_smile: She’s got the clever lyrics, great production (everything from synth dance-pop to orchestral dance-pop, to dance-pop created using nothing but human voices as instruments - all of it extremely smart and inventive).

I came to say Split Enz (already mentioned by someone else). Also, maybe Genesis, during their long transition from prog rock to pop – try the albums Duke and Abacab. And I might throw in Adam Ant – another underappreciated composer! Also Johnny Rotten’s second band, Public Image Limited. And perhaps some Eurythmics, but I don’t know them as well.